Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 5.18.17 – Pam Bondi raising $$$; No word yet on special Session; Richard Corcoran’s op-ed; The secret Disney land deal

in Peter/Top Headlines by

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

Good morning from the deck of the Disney Magic. The weather is now much more north Atlantic than tropical. Current location is 35.17.14 N, 39.16.13 W. Course is 80 degrees. The nearest land is Santa Cruz des Flores. The ship is 672 nautical miles from Ponta Delgado. It’s our fifth straight day at sea, but our mood is buoyed by the fact that today is Pirate Night.


Attorney General Pam Bondi had a good April, at least when it came to fundraising.

State records show Bondi raised $72,500 for her political committee, Justice for All, during the one-month fundraising period. The committee, which posts fundraising numbers on its website, has already raised $10,000 this month.

The numbers aren’t earth shattering. In fact, they barely rank among the Top 10 fundraising hauls the committee has reported to the state since 2013. But here’s why $72K in 30 days is notable: The April haul marks the first time in more than a year the committee has raised any money.

Dear Pam: What are you raising money for?

The committee, state records show, hasn’t raised any money since January 2016, when it reported raising $53,000. Prior to that, it reported sporadic fundraising throughout much of 2015 and late 2014.

Bondi, who won re-election with 55 percent of the vote in 2014, can’t run again in 2018 because of term limits. An early supporter of President Donald Trump, many speculated Bondi would leave her post early to join Trump administration. But none of the obvious jobs panned out, leaving many to wonder what comes next for Bondi.

While Bondi has said she won’t run for governor, the attorney general’s post has been a launching pad for gubernatorial bids in the past. And Bondi remains one of the most popular Republicans in the state.

According to a February survey conducted by Associated Industries of Florida, 54 percent of Republicans approved of the job she was doing as attorney general. She had the third highest approval rating at the time, behind only Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio.

It’s unclear what sparked the sudden surge in fundraising, but Bondi did secure some big-name contributors in April. Top contributors included Florida Phosphate Council; the Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC, and Mosaic Global Sales. The committee ended the month with $222,587 cash on hand.

“Bondi wants to protect ‘military consumers’ ” via Florida PoliticsAttorney General Bondi on Wednesday announced a new consumer protection program “that will serve the unique needs of our military and veteran communities and directly assist with consumer protection-related issues.” The Military and Veterans Assistance Program (MVAP) is Bondi’s “most recent effort to spread awareness of and stop deceptive business practices affecting military service members, veterans and their families,” according to a press release. “Florida has more than 90,000 active duty and reserve military members and more than 1.5 million veterans,” she said in a statement. “To the men and women who have put on a uniform to protect our country, we will continue to do everything we can to protect you from these scammers.”

Stop f*cking with Pam, A**hole – “Bondi faces accused stalker in court” via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times – When William Norman Wilkes first banged on her door at 3 one morning, Bondi said she thought he was a different stalker she has dealt with — a man from another state who thinks she can remove a chip from his brain. “When I called 911, I said, ‘My stalker is trying to get in the house,’” Bondi said, “because I thought he was someone else at the time.” But Bondi, flanked in court by statewide prosecutors Nick Cox and Rita Peters, said she didn’t know Wilkes. She said he showed up twice at her home and later sent her text messages expressing appreciation for her “physical attributes.” She has since learned that they attended the same high school. After Wednesday’s hearing, Bondi said Wilkes was taken to a mental health center in Tampa. He was cleared to leave days later, before he began sending text messages to Bondi through Facebook Messenger. “The system failed me and it failed him,” Bondi said.

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“Civil rights icon John Lewis endorses Gwen Graham” via Florida Politics — In a statement, the Georgia Democrat said Graham is the only Democrat for governor who has the passion and commitment, the track record and the leadership skills to stand up, speak out, protect our priorities, and get things done.” Graham marched with Lewis and President Barack Obama across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to mark the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, joined him and other House Democrats in a sit-in to demand commonsense gun safety, and co-sponsored legislation to protect voting rights while in Congress. “Gwen is a champion for the progressive values so many of us share, and I am proud to give Gwen Graham my strongest endorsement for Governor of Florida,” said Lewis.

Assignment editors: Adam Putnam will continue his 10-day, 22-city bus tour with an “Up & Adam” breakfast at 8 a.m. at Tasty’s Fresh Burgers and Fries, 710 Centre Street in Fernandina Beach.

Adam Putnam supporters gathered for an “Up & Adam” breakfast at Wilke’s 14 Bones BBQ in Vero Beach.

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Matt Caldwell releases first campaign video — Caldwell, who formally launched his bid for Agriculture Commissioner on Monday, released a video explaining why he was running for the statewide office. “Running for office was about a choice,” he says in the 2 minute and 30 second campaign video. “I could sit idly by and shake my fist at the television screen or I could get out there and I could fight for what I knew right and just.” In the video, the North Fort Myers Republican urges supporters to help us get our message out to all 20 million Floridians in all 67 counties.” Click on the image below to watch the video.   

“Denise Grimsley introduces herself to Tampa Republicans” via Mitch Perry of SaintPetersBlog —The Sebring Republican used her stop in Tampa to introduce herself to local Republicans and explain why she’s the best candidate to succeed Putnam as Agriculture Commissioner. Like Putnam, she’s a fifth-generation Floridian, but unlike him, she had an entire career outside of politics before being elected in 2004 to represent Highlands County in the Florida House. Grimsley spent 17 years in the health care field. She also spent time as a citrus grower and rancher when she took over for her ailing father at the Grimsley Oil Company. “When I did that, I started seeing how government impacted our day-to-day life,” Grimsley told the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee, which gathered at the River at Tampa Bay Church Tuesday night. Before that, she said, she had little interest in the workings of government.

“In Tampa, Jay Fant says House ‘out of whack’ for zeroing out funding for Enterprise Florida” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — The Jacksonville Republican was back in Tampa, where he once again registered his disagreement with House Speaker Richard Corcoran over the House vote to zero out funding for Enterprise Florida. Speaking to the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee, he said he gets along well with Corcoran … but disagrees with how the House handled the budget in relation to Enterprise Florida. “If I sound critical of the House’s approach in this method, then I am,” said Fant, who is running for attorney general. “We have education, health, transportation, many good programs that occur in our budget, and if we jeopardize it over a food fight over a meaningful smaller, legitimately debatable item, then I think we’re out of whack, and I think we need to come back and find a compromise, not jeopardize our funding from the state.”

“Audrey Gibson draws 2018 opponent” via Florida Politics — Lucretia Fordyce, a write-in candidate, has filed to run against the veteran Democratic senator and chairwoman of the Duval County Democratic Party. Fordyce, a customer service rep and an Army veteran, bills herself on her Facebook page as a “national recording artist and an author.” Among her books: Dare to Be a Diva in Bella Mafias.

Three Democrats now running to replace Janet Cruz in HD 62 — Michael AlvarezCarlos Frontela, and John Rodriguez have all thrown their hat in the race to replace Cruz in House District 62. Rodriguez served as Cruz’s first legislative aide; while Frontela is a businessman. Alvarez is a Marine veteran and a party activist who works for a local roofing company. Cruz, the House Democratic Leader, can’t run for re-election because of term limits.

Two Democrats file to replace Lori Berman in HD 90 — Boynton Beach Commissioner Joe Casello and Adriana Gonzalez have filed to replace the Lantana Democrat in House District 90. Casello was first elected as a city commissioner in April 2013, and was re-elected in March 2014 to a three-year term. Gonzalez is a partner at Gonzalez & Cartwright PA, and an executive board member of the Palm Beach County Justice Association Berman can’t run for re-election because of term limits.


Bill watch – Gov. Scott was presented with one bill on Wednesday — HB 7109, the tax cut package. He has until Thursday, June 1 to sign it, veto it or let it become law without taking action.

Senate Democrats are ready to block override – under right circumstances” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Senate Democrats are prepared to work with Gov. Scott to block an override of a veto if he rejects the sweeping education reform bill pushed by House leaders in the final days of session and sold as a take-it or leave-it budget deal, Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon [said]. “We have to have a reason to override,” Braynon said, referring to his Democratic colleagues. “It would depend on what the veto message looks like and if his vetoes include a bunch of things that matter to Democrats, then we’re not going to override. We’re willing to come back and work.” The Senate would need 26 votes to override the governor’s veto and, with Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala openly suggesting he would support a veto, plus the three Republican senators who voted against the bill, the numbers won’t add up if the Senate Democrats hold most of their 15 members.

“Still no decision from Joe Negron on marijuana Special Session” via Florida Politics – Senate President Negron has yet to decide to join House Speaker Corcoran in calling for a Special Session on medical marijuana implementation, a spokeswoman said Wednesday. Negron, a Stuart Republican, is still “in the process of having discussions with senators in response to the memorandum he sent last Thursday,” Katie Betta said in an email. Negron had sought input from fellow senators after the 2017 Legislative Session ended without a bill to guide state Health regulators on the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment. An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

— “Darryl Rouson wants lawmakers to take medical pot into their own hands” via the Miami Herald

Who dropped this oppo file? – “A tale of two homes: Does Miami lawmaker live in district she represents?” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Rep. Daisy Baez doesn’t appear to live in the House district she represents, a possible violation of the Florida Constitution that could haunt her Florida Senate candidacy. Her residence continues to be a prim Coral Gables house with a stack of her old campaign yard signs leaning against one of the porch walls … Baez wasn’t inside – but her two rescue dogs, Oso and Coco, were. So was her campaign team, working around the kitchen table. Baez was expected back a couple of hours later. The home is in House District 112. Baez, a Democrat, represents House District 114, whose boundaries begin about half a mile away. Florida requires lawmakers to live and vote in the districts they represent by Election Day. For Baez, a freshman, that was Nov. 8 of last year.

Assignment editors – Lawmakers and advocates will host a news conference and rally outside the Orange County Department of Health (DOH) office, 832 W. Central Blvd. in Orlando, to demand immediate action on medical cannabis, and continue calls for a special legislative session to pass an Amendment 2 implementation bill. News conference from 12 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.


Richard Corcoran:Don’t believe hyperbole, hysterics from budget critics” via Orlando Rising – If you can believe it, one newspaper even argued that Gov. Scott should veto the budget because it offered kids in failing schools hope, and because voters shouldn’t be able to choose another $25,000 homestead exemption on their property taxes. … I wish I were joking but I’m not. … From funding to clear out the backlog of sexual-assault testing kits to fully funding the KidCare program, to making feminine hygiene products tax exempt, this budget is tough on waste, generous to our kids, and prioritizes real people. For some, however, this wasn’t enough. It is this exact same logic and thinking that has put this country $20 trillion in debt and enriched insider elites at the expense of the hard-working, play-by-the-rules majority of we the people.

Gary Fineout fires back via @Fineout: Much was made this session about university budgets and how projects were rolled up before budget was sent to @FLGovScott … Guess what? $120 million for Florida’s 12 universities – with set amounts for each school – was rolled up into the overall SUS budget

Jason Fischer: “Our kids deserve hope” via Florida Politics – Over the past few days, many district superintendents and other defenders of the struggling status quo have attacked HB 7069, a bill focused on reforming and improving K-12 education. The notion that this bill will gut public education or undermine public schools is hogwash. Instead, it provides the reform and disruption our K-12 education system desperately needs. HB 7069 does several positive things: boosts K-12 funding to a record high $24 billion; rewards teachers and principals with bonuses; reduces standardized and computer testing; expands school choice access for special needs and virtual school students; implements mandatory recess for early grades; and provides the needed funding and incentives to attract nationally-proven charter school networks to Florida.  The bill also rewards Florida’s 165,000+ hardworking teachers and principals with bonuses for the next three years, ranging between $800 and $6,000, based on eligibility, placing more dollars directly in the pockets of our educators. What the bill does not do is cut funding to traditional public schools. Duval County will see an $8.3 million boost overall or $16 per pupil increase in funding.


Because we were first to tell you Mike Dew was a shoo-in to get the top spot at the Department of Transportation. Doubters noted that Dew was not on a list of recommendations to go to Gov. Scott—but then, surprise, he was added back on Wednesday. Did we also mention we were first to say Noah Valenstein would be the next Department of Environmental Protection Secretary? Again, on Wednesday, he was the only applicant—mirabile dictu—to be granted an interview at next week’s Cabinet meeting. Tell a friend: Look on the right-hand side of our main page to subscribe to SUNBURN and all our other newsletters.


Marco Rubio calls for patience in Donald trump issues” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Rubio on Fox & Friends: “I’m not saying the news articles are wrong. I’m not saying that they are right,” he said. “I’m saying that they raise an allegation, we have an obligation to look into them, but before we form opinions and advocate for action, we need to know what the facts are.” Any advice for the White House? “There is a value to convention … If the White House became more systematic in its approach to scheduling and messaging and the like, they would avoid some of the friction that you’re now seeing.”

“2,100 wildfires have burned in Florida this year” via the Associated Press – Ag. Commissioner Putnam said that more than 127 active fires were burning in Florida as of Tuesday. Putnam says drought conditions and high wildfire danger will continue for some time since May is traditionally one of the driest months of the year in Florida.

State will exhaust budget for agriculture conservation easements by year’s end” via Florida Politics — The state would run out of money to buy agricultural conservation land easements by the end of 2017 under the budget approved by the Legislature, the head of the Florida Forest Service said Wednesday. The service asked for $50 million and got $10 for the Rural & Family Lands Protection Program, land program administrator John Browne told aides to Gov. Scott and the Cabinet. Combined with about $11 million for the current fiscal year, that would leave around $21 million for easement acquisition, Browne said. “So you’ll see easements at least until the end of this calendar year. After that, it’s kind of questionable,” Browne said. … Scott and the Cabinet have two acquisitions on their May 23 agenda — $7 million on 4,177 acres of the Triple S Ranch in Okeechobee County, and $1.5 million in state and federal money for 1,034 acres of the S.Y. Hartt Ranch in Highland County.

“Seminoles’ Jim Allen suggests putting Florida casinos up for bid” via Nick Sortal of the Miami Herald – Allen suggested that any expansion of commercial casinos in Florida should involve a competitive bidding process, rather than simply adding slots at more racetracks, reported James Kilsby for Gambling Compliance, the only media covering the event. “In my opinion and on behalf of the tribe, if the state wants to enhance revenue from gaming, then run a process … and attract great companies like Steve Wynn’s, like MGM, like Station [Casinos], Penn National Gaming, like LVS,” Allen told delegates at the International Masters of Gaming Law (IMGL) spring conference. “If we’re going to do it, then let’s do it right. … “Obviously our preference is for the Seminole Tribe to continue to enjoy our semi-exclusivity… and we’re happy to put billions into the state,” Allen added. “But if the state is at the point where they don’t want to do that, then we’re happy to move on.”

What Jack Cory is reading – “Greyhound owners sue to strike down Seminole County greyhound ordinance” via Florida Politics – Two racing dog owners are trying to strike down a county ordinance regulating greyhounds. Scott Bennett and Jimmy Goodman, in a suit filed in Seminole Circuit Court on Tuesday, say the local law—the only known one of its kind in the state—is preempted by Florida gambling statutes covering racing dogs and is thus “unenforceable.” They said they “have incurred, and will continue to incur, licensing fees that are otherwise not required by state law” and “subject to ongoing harm including inspections and potential fines from the County.” Their suit also says the ordinance was drafted by GREY2K USA, which bills itself as a “greyhound protection organization” and has long been an antagonist to racing dog breeders and owners. “The legal claims made in this lawsuit are flawed, and will be rejected,” said Carla Wilson, vice chair of the Committee to Protect Greyhounds, a political committee that backed the ordinance. The plaintiffs are represented by lawyer-lobbyist and former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, who also represents the Florida Greyhound Association. Lawmakers considered but did not pass a bill this year banning the use of steroids on greyhounds. The Seminole County ordinance does not address steroid use on dogs.

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UM researchers find new way to measure hurricanes: ‘gravity waves’” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald – Gravity waves are produced when air moving around the atmosphere gets pushed from one place to another. In a hurricane, those waves can come in quick, short bursts as powerful thunderstorms around the storm’s eye wall swish air up and down like a plunger in a toilet bowl. Scientists have long known they exist, measuring them in the stratosphere about 20 or 30 miles from a storm. Now, for the first time, University of Miami scientists have ventured into the heart of the storm, measuring the waves where they start. And early indications suggest wave power relates directly to storm power. “The waves are generated in the eye wall, where all the energy is released,” said David Nolan, who reported the findings with colleague Jun Zhang in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “That’s why we think it’s telling us what’s going on with the storm. It’s like noise from the engine.”

What Kevin Sweeny is reading – “St. Augustine residents voice concerns over increased tourism” via Ethan Calloway of News 4 Jax – Even on a Tuesday afternoon, the streets of downtown St. Augustine are packed with cars and the sidewalks full of pedestrians. But those signs of a tourism boom in America’s oldest city aren’t sitting well with everyone. “I know it’s a good thing for the economy as a whole, but as far as quality of life, it’s definitely getting a little — you know, there are some days where you just have to bite your lip and just shake your head and keep right on going,” resident Gerard Shannon said. He said the presence of the tourists is much more noticeable, and not always in a good way. “People (are) ending up on scooters in spots that you would be surprised,” Shannon said. “I mean, you’ve got to look both ways to cross the sidewalk sometimes around here, and never mind the cars — they can end up almost anywhere.”


Appointed – Gary Wendt to Board of Trustees, Florida Polytechnic University.

“Florida TaxWatch announces winners of 2017 Prudential Productivity Awards” via Florida Politics – TaxWatch gave 203 awards to “state employees and teams from across the state for … cost savings ideas across state government,” according to a press release. “State workers are critical to the functions of Florida’s government and hardly get the praise and honor they deserve for a job well done. This program has ensured that the taxpayers are noticing the contributions of hard-working state employees,” said Dominic M. Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. The program encourages state agencies “to work together to replicate the savings across state government. Since 1989, thousands of individuals, teams, work units and partnerships have produced more than $9 billion worth of added value as a direct result of award winners’ achievements and the replication of those achievements, the group said. The full list of winners and more about the program is here.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Stacy Arias, Christopher Dudley, Jerry Lee McDaniel, Jim Smith, Monte Stevens, Southern Strategy Group: 3M Company and Its Affiliates

Susan Goldstein, Susan Goldstein Consulting Inc.: CannaPharmacy Sciences, LLC

— ALOE —

The secret Florida land deal that became Walt Disney World” via the Miami Herald – On May 27, 1965, the Miami Herald published this headline: “Giant land deal near Orlando revealed.” But the buyer and the plans were a mystery. “A Miami law firm working with $5 million in cold cash has quietly engineered one of the biggest Florida land deals in years,” the story went on to report. So, what would the 30,000 acres be used for? Speculation focused on an atomic energy lab. Another guessed “Disneyland East.” As we all know by now, Walt Disney was secretly assembling the land for what would become Walt Disney World in Central Florida. In November 1965, he announced plans for the theme park. Six years later, the Magic Kingdom opened … The success of the Magic Kingdom led to a frantic scramble by developers to create competing theme parks in Central Florida. Circus World, Boardwalk and Baseball, Marco Polo World, Stars Hall of Fame and Splendid China opened but later failed. Among the parks proposed but never built were Bible World, Hurricane World and Little England.

Walt Disney World under construction near Orlando in Central Florida, on July 7, 1971. At center is the amusement park’s Cinderella Palace in the Magic Kingdom. Photo credit; Associated Press.

Happy birthday belatedly to President Toni Jennings. Celebrating today is Rep. Mike Miller, Trevor Mask, and my man, Mike Wickersheim.

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.

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