Sunburn for 5/16 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

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Rubio is clearly thinking about running for president. Yet the man who once led in early polling for the 2016 Republican nomination is stuck in the mid-single digits. In a field where no one is polling higher than the mid-teens, that isn’t devastating. Instead, what could hurt Rubio is the undermining of his chief argument for the nomination: He was the electable conservative, with a solidly right-wing voting record in Congress but still well-liked by the political middle.

Just after the 2012 presidential election, when the GOP was looking for a new standard bearer, Rubio was viewed favorably by 30 percent of all adults. He was viewed unfavorably by 20 percent. That 3-2 favorable-to-unfavorable ratio is stronger than Hillary Clinton’s current ratings. But over the past year, Rubio’s favorable ratings have slid; his unfavorable ratings have risen.

An average of polls taken since March 1 has Rubio’s net favorable rating at -4 points. The most recent Quinnpiac University poll shows 27 percent of registered voters giving Rubio a positive rating and 31 percent giving him a negative rating. An Associated Press-GfK survey found his favorable rating at 23 percent and his unfavorable rating at 27 percent.

It’s not clear why Rubio has fallen. The decline in his popularity among adults corresponds almost perfectly with his push for immigration reform; his largest drop occurred in June as the Senate was debating comprehensive changes to U.S. policy. I wouldn’t argue that pushing for immigration reform made Rubio unpopular, but it did give him a lot of press. FiveThirtyEight has previously said thatRubio’s ideology ranks as quite conservative. It’s possible that Americans learned more about Rubio than just his views on immigration during that period.

So, what does this mean going forward?

There is plenty of time for Rubio’s popularity among the general electorate to recover. The problem for Rubio is that his lack of a stronger electability argument may hurt him in the early, behind-the-scenes battle for campaign staff, donors, endorsements and other resources.


Marco Rubio denies being a climate-change denier. But the Florida Senator isn’t a believer, either.

Call him a skeptic. For now.

“I think all science deserves skepticism,” Rubio said in an interview about what he does and doesn’t believe about global warming and what to do about it.

And right now, Rubio doesn’t want to take too much action.

In the wake of a new White House report on climate change that paints a bleak picture for his home county, his state, the nation and the planet, Rubio harbors doubts about some of the findings. He’s especially opposed to suggested fixes designed to lessen the amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the United States.

Rubio says he thinks the laws won’t work — but will hurt the economy in a “devastating” way.

Rubio’s comments about the report, first made Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” exposed him to criticism from scientists, editorial writers and Democrats, who say the potential Republican candidate for president is thinking more about a future GOP primary instead of the health of the planet or Miami. Some branded Rubio a climate-change denier.

“Denial is a loaded term. That’s a term used to smear people, for example, who deny the holocaust existed or denied other things of that nature,” Rubio said.

“I’ve never denied that there is a climate change,” Rubio said. “The question is: Is man-made activity causing the changes in the climate?”

Rubio, however, won’t answer that with a yes or no.


Why can’t Florida produce a president?

We’re a microcosm of the nation, with large voting blocs of old people, Hispanics, blacks, young professionals, urban dwellers, activists in various social and environmental causes, organized labor, farm workers, people from all over America, and then a bunch more old people. Our presidential primary every four years is the first real test, forcing candidates to compete in diverse, expensive media markets.

It seems as if we can propel presidential candidates, or more often stop them; we just can’t grow one of our own. Texas has sent three men to the White House in the lifespan of most Florida voters, while California and New York have each produced two presidents.

Sen. Rubio caused a stir last weekend when he told ABC News — during an interview in, wouldn’t you know, New Hampshire — that he is ready for the White House. He hastened to add, “I think that’s true for multiple other people that would want to run,” showing obligatory modesty.

In other words, he’s running. Rubio almost certainly won’t wake up in the White House on Jan. 21, 2017, but don’t be too quick to scoff.

Rubio will turn 43 this month and already has served longer in the U.S. Senate than President Obama had when, at 45, he began doing his early exploratory work. By comparison, Rubio is the same age Theodore Roosevelt was when he became president and, in 2016, he’ll be older than Kennedy was in 1960.

He represents a bigger, more diverse state than Obama’s Illinois. If you want to check political references, Rubio served longer in the Florida Legislature than Obama did in Springfield, and became speaker of the House. Both men were born to difficult circumstances and worked their way up, becoming lawyers and inspiring large followings of true believers — which come from far ends of the political spectrum.

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Democrats filed three complaints accusing Gov. Scott of violating ethics laws by not fully reporting his frequent use of an aircraft owned by a business in his wife’s name during the campaign.

All three complaints, filed with both the Commission on Ethics and the Florida Elections Commission, follow a Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald report last month, which found that Scott’s campaign did not list expenditures for the use of the private Cessna Citation Excel jet taking him for fundraising and campaign events nationwide after becoming an official candidate for re-election in December.

Filing one of the complaints is 22-year-old Alejandro Victoria, a recent Florida State University political science graduate and active Democratic volunteer.

“I wanted to hold Rick Scott accountable to not be above the law,” Victoria told Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times. “I think the governor should be held to a higher standard and being transparent in this case is the right thing.”

“Scott has not made timely payment for the use of the aircraft, nor had he reported the airplane use values, either as an in-kind contribution or a loan,” according to another complaint filed by election lawyer Ron Meyer, a lobbyist for the teacher’s union Florida Education Association.

A second election law complaint alleges that each time Scott used the plane, it amounted to an in-kind contribution exceeding the $3,000 limit, which requires reporting. Meyer estimates the cost of operating the jet runs around $2,000 per hour.

Meyer’s complaint maintains that under state law, the campaign’s use of the jet represents a gift that must be reported each time, something Scott has not done.

COUNCIL OF 100 TAKES BACK INVITATION TO HEAR FROM CHARLIE CRIST via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press

The Council of 100 rescinded an invitation for Crist to speak at its meeting in Orlando on Thursday and Crist believes it’s because Republican Gov. Rick Scott didn’t want him there.

The policy advisory group told Crist two days before the meeting that it no longer wanted him speaking at the meeting. He was scheduled to speak at 11 a.m., three hours after Scott addressed the group.

“I can’t help but to think it was Rick Scott,” Crist told reporters outside the meeting. “I don’t think he wants to hear what I want to say. I mean, I’m telling the truth about him.”

Council Chairman Steven Halverson said the group decided it wanted speakers to stick to policy issues.

“As our meeting schedule developed, we wanted to ensure our policy meetings remained policy focused and not evolve into a political event. We then sought out Governor Crist, who graciously accepted our apology for any inconvenience we may have caused,” Halverson said in an email.

Crist is an honorary member of the group and is allowed to attend the meetings as a former governor, Halverson said, adding that the decision to rescind the invitation to speak was solely his.

Asked about Crist’s allegation, Scott spokesman Greg Blair issued a statement that said, “We hope Charlie Crist speaks in every corner of the state. The more he speaks, the clearer it becomes that Crist is only focused on talk, while Rick Scott is focused on action.”

Blair didn’t immediately reply when asked specifically if Scott asked the group to uninvite Crist.


Sen. Dwight Bullard, the chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, and Rep. Perry E. Thurston, Florida House Democratic Caucus chair, have sent a letter to the Council of 100 that accuses it of being spineless — and racially exclusionary.

Here’s the letter:

Florida’s Council of 100 purports to be a “nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of business leaders, which exists to promote the economic growth of Florida.” Your mission statement even claims you are seeking to “effect positive change” that is “beneficial to all Floridians.”

So it was simply incredible to us that your organization would abruptly cancel an invitation to speak by a Democratic candidate running for governor simply because he is a Democrat. It is amazing that your assemblage of powerful business leaders would so easily bend to the bullying of Governor Scott — who apparently just wanted to quiet any view of Florida inconsistent with his own.

Disregarding that you purport to be a “nonpartisan” organization, who does your organization truly represent?

Your officers and board are comprised of 31 people, of whom only five are women and only three appear to be Democrats. Of the 31 Floridians who lead your organization, not one of them is an African-American.

To repeat, in the year 2014, not one of your 31 officers or directors is an African-American. Your actions and your choices make it abundantly clear whom you seek to represent.

WESH 2 VIDEO of reporters being tossed from Council of 100 event here.

ASSIGNMENT EDITOR: Crist will open the campaign’s first two Miami field offices this Saturday. 2206 SW 8th Street. 10 a.m.; 6211 NW 7th Avenue. 12:30 p.m.


The Republican Party of Florida is doing its best to create some turbulence for Charlie Crist‘s heretofore easy glide toward the Democratic nomination for governor to challenge Republican Gov. Rick Scott in November.

 The GOP today re-launched a website called that the Florida Democratic Party created in 2009 to attack then-Republican Gov. Crist in his bid for U.S. Senate. The Dems’ theme at the time was that Crist was bolting the governor’s mansion to avoid Florida’s economic woes.

Reminders of Crist’s Republican-to-independent-to-Democrat transformation haven’t hurt him with voters so far. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that Florida voters considered it a positive thing rather than a negative by a 52-to-40 percent margin.

The sincerity of Crist’s Democratic conversion might be tested in a robust Democratic primary debate, Republicans hope. But Crist has refused to debate his main Dem rival, former state Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich, saying he can’t be distracted from his focus on Scott.

Scott today made another pitch for a Crist-Rich Democratic debate in a video clip that the Republican Party of Florida circulated.

“The first debate he needs to do is with Nan Rich,” Scott says in the video. “He needs to quit ducking a debate with Nan Rich. He’s in a primary. Nan Rich — I might not agree with her on many issues. But she is somebody that’s consistent; something that Charlie Crist has had a problem with his whole career.”

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The Vote No on 2 campaign has begun, opposed to the medical marijuana constitutional amendment slated for the November ballot.

Early leaders of the effort include Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos, a Brevard County doctor and wife of former Senate President Mike Haridopolos, Florida Sheriffs Association heads and Tre Evers, a Republican political consultant from Orlando and former official in President George W. Bush’s administration.

Financing for the effort comes from the Drug Free Florida Committee, recently launched with a $100,000 check from Republican donor Mel Sembler, a St. Petersburg developer.

The Republican-led Legislature gave the green light to a measure legalizing a strain of non-euphoric medical marijuana to be used by cancer patients and those suffering from severe epilepsy.

The effort was widely seen as potentially blunting support for the November ballot proposal — which some see as possibly bringing some voters to the polls that may be more inclined to vote for Democrat Charlie Crist over Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

The governor has said he will sign the non-euphoric strain into law. But he is opposed to the more sweeping constitutional amendment that would allow sufferers from a wide range of illnesses to obtain prescription pot.

The Vote No on 2 campaign isn’t mentioning the legislation headed to the governor, although those close to Sembler say he opposes any effort to soften Florida drug laws.

Still, Vote No condemns the ballot proposal as a “cleverly veiled attempt to legalize marijuana in Florida for anyone and for any reason.”

REAX: “The website and video are both filled with half-truths, distortions and outright lies,” said Ben Pollara, campaign manager of United for Care. “Floridians deserve a debate based on the facts, not disingenuous scare tactics.”


The “Vote No on 2” campaign against the medical marijuana Florida constitutional amendment has launched a web site and web video denouncing the amendment as a ploy to legalize marijuana for “money for dope dealers.”

The Vote No organization argues that the amendment would allow unrestricted sale and use of marijuana by anyone, including minors, in a virtually unregulated setting like the one that followed a medical marijuana measure in California.

One supporter of the amendment, state Sen. Oscar Braynon, raised another objection to the video, saying its use of a black, former drug dealer stoking fears of unregulated drug sales injects “a racial undertone” into the debate.

In the video, Dee Reed, identified as a minister and former drug dealer, says, “If the Amendment 2 was passed … back in the day that I was pushing drugs, you just legalized me to sell and distribute drugs to all ages — all ages — you would have never stopped me.”

Braynon responded, “I think it’s definitely playing on a racial undertone, trying to play on people’s fear. It’s ridiculous. I just don’t understand why that’s where they chose to go.”


Though Florida could be headed toward allowing marijuana for medical purposes, marijuana won’t replace citrus or be seen growing in fields across the Sunshine State, Ag. Commish Adam Putnam told the South Florida Sun Sentinel editorial board on Wednesday.

“There won’t be fields of marijuana growing in Florida,” Putnam said in the videotaped interview, of which snippets were posted on the newspaper’s website. “It will be grown under roof, in controlled environments, inside, for obvious security reasons.”

State lawmakers have asked Gov. Scott to approve a measure (SB 1030) that would help patients get access to a strain of marijuana that is high in cannabidiol (CBD) and low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Putnam noted that under the low-THC bill approved by the Legislature, the Department of Health would choose five nurseries — one in each corner of the state along with Central Florida — to grow, manufacture and sell the product. And those growers must be registered nurseries that have operated in the state for 30 years and produce more than 400,000 plants.

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Rep. Rob Schenck has likely served his last regular session as a Hernando County legislator.

He often has bragged about his 2011 bill that cracked down on the careless prescribing of pain pills and that has helped cut the state’s oxycodone deaths by 52 percent since 2010.

What he doesn’t mention: Earlier in that session he tried to do away with the prescription drug database that is a crucial part of reining in pill mills, and his bill would have been toothless if not for the changes demanded by Attorney General Pam Bondi and then-Sen. Mike Fasano.

And if Schenck, a Spring Hill Republican, really cared about the crisis of prescription drug addiction, he could have demonstrated it this session. He could have used his power and freedom as a well-placed, term-limited representative to make sure the database received the money it needs to keep going — a tiny sum considering the lives it saves.

But the Legislature set aside nothing for this purpose, leaving it to Bondi to find the money to keep it running.

All in all, Fasano said, Schenck “has been a thorn in the side of continuing a valuable program.”

But Schenck has been good about bringing home cash, right — bagged his share of turkeys?

Yes. But his funding priority this session, $4 million for an environmental educational plaza in Hernando Beach — money that seems to have been secured mostly on the strength of a spiffy architectural model and that it stands to help the site’s land owners as much as the public — is looking more and more like a true turkey.


Florida is heading into hurricane season with good news.

The state-created fund that backs up private insurers in Florida appears to be in very good financial shape again this year.

New projections show that the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund should have nearly $13 billion available for the Atlantic hurricane season that starts on June 1.

On Thursday, an advisory panel for the fund will hear Wall Street firm estimates on how much money the fund would have to borrow if Florida was hit with a devastating storm. Those estimates show that the fund should be able borrow more than enough for this year.

The financial health of the fund is important because the state can place a surcharge on most insurance policies if the “Cat Fund” runs out of money.


The biggest celebrities of the day, including Bob Hope, Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle, Perry Como, Johnny Carson, Joey Bishop, Vic Damone, Carol Burnett and Morey Amsterdam, all came to Bradenton in the 1970s to hang with Phil Galvano.

“Golf coach to the stars,” they called him.

“My dad was the first celebrity golf pro — in fact, he invented it,” says state Sen. Bill Galvano. The elder Galvano lived in Manatee County from 1969 to 1981, when he owned and operated the executive golf course called Santa Rosa on Cortez Road.

Manatee County’s two-day 18th annual Phil Galvano Classic Golf Tournament begins with a private outing at Long Boat Key Club followed by a huge tournament Friday with 36 teams competing at Legacy Golf Club in Lakewood Ranch.

Hundreds will play in Phil Galvano’s honor, all of them contributing registration fees toward a cause he would have relished: the Manatee Education Foundation.

His father’s stories of life on the streets were the kernel that later created The Bill Galvano One Stop Center for the needy in Bradenton.


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has announced his endorsement of Julio Gonzalez in the race for House District 74

Gonzalez, a Venice orthopedic surgeon, faces former prosecutor and Republican Party leader Richard DeNapoli in the district covering Osprey, Venice and parts of North Port and Englewood. The two are running for the seat vacated by term-limited Rep. Doug Holder.

“Julio Gonzalez is living the American Dream,” Rubio said in a statement issued Thursday. “A doctor, veteran and community leader, Julio and his wife Gina are raising their two daughters in South Sarasota County.

“He’s lived, worked and contributed to the community for a decade, and now he wants to give back by representing the area in the State House.  One of my earliest and strongest supporters, Julio Gonzalez is a real conservative who I am pleased to endorse and support for State Representative.”

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This will be the first time governmental affairs firms will submit reports since the Legislature implemented new guidelines for auditing lobbying compensation reports, although the auditing firms actually won’t begin randomly selecting firms until 2015.

As Aaron Deslatte reported, many lobbyists have quietly grumbled that rival firms have been inflating their numbers — by, for instance, double-reporting the same amounts on both their legislative and executive reports.

With the possibility of audits hanging over Adams Street, it’s expected that some firms’ reported revenues may decline from last year.

That’s why we’ll be reporting who were the 1st Quarter Wolves of Adams Street.

Which firms do you think made Jordan Belfort-like money? Of course, Ballard, SSG, Capital City Consulting, GrayRobinson, Johnson & Blanton, and Ron Book will make the list, but who else will be in the Top 10?

Keep checking for stories about which firms made out like wolves during the first quarter.


Brian Ballard, Sylvester Lukis, Ballard Partners: Nationwide Retirement Solutions, Inc.

Thomas DeRita, Resource Group NA: Garrett Gleim; MTC Management & Training Corporation

Gene McGee, Adam Roberts, GMA Inc.: AmeriHealth Caritas Health Plan; Pitney Bowes

Paul Plofchan: ADT LLC

Nancy Black Stewart: Bull Run Enterprises

Richard Weisskoff: City of South Miami

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On Context Florida: Those looking for secrecy, lack of accountability, and corporate cronyism, Mark Ferrulo says to look no further than the Florida Legislature. For people unable or unwilling to save enough money during their working days, Mark O’Brien paints an alarming future —a nursing home that is two, three, sometimes four patients to a room, with patients that are low-income folks with all sorts of problems. Stephen L. Goldsteinsees U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio as laughably uninformed, yet convinced that he and what’s left of his Tea Party supporters have been endowed by their creator with the wisdom, fortitude, and chutzpah to know how to solve everything that ails America, the planet, and outer reaches of space. Key West city commissioners made one of those decisions that cannot be explained in anything other than snarky political sarcasm and will likely haunt the city for years to come, says Linda Grist Cunningham. They brought back twice-a-week garbage pickup, run by a company that was neither the low bidder nor the staff-recommended vendor.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Josh Burgin, Wayne Garcia, Alison Moramo, and Mitch Perry

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Rev. Manuel Sykes

Political Connections on CF 13: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam

The Usual Suspects which airs on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Steve Vancore, Gary Yordon, and Mary Ellen Klas.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rick Watson.

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.