Sunburn for 5/30 – 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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House Democrats are ready to empty their deep pockets for television ads in their uphill climb to overtake Republicans as the majority party.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began asking television stations in 36 districts to set aside broadcast and cable advertising time for the fall’s campaign blitz.

It comes to almost $44 million in advertising requests, or $1.2 million per race. That’s the largest ever from the committee and the biggest so far this election year from a party-run campaign committee.

The level of detail in the spending plan telegraphs which races the Democrats plan to spend money on, and when. The party committee cannot coordinate with allies at super political action committees, but operatives can point to public sources such as news stories to ensure outside groups are not missing races or wasting money on redundant ads.

But the tactic comes with a risk. Republicans can now see when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee plans to be on the air, and in which markets.

For instance, the committee plans to spend $2.8 million on broadcast and cable ads in the Washington, D.C., media market between Oct. 21 and Nov. 4.

In all, the campaign committee plans to spend money in 19 districts to defend incumbent Democrats, mostly newcomers, and in 17 districts that are in Republican hands.


CD 2: $400,000 on Tallahassee broadcast and cable, and $385,000 on Panama City broadcast and cable from Sept. 30 to Oct. 20 to play offense against Rep. Steve Southerland II.

CD 26: $970,000 on Miami Spanish-language broadcast from Oct. 21 to Nov. 4 to defend Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia.

FUNDRAISING EMAILS GALORE: “Painful” via Vice President Joe Biden; “A guest and James Taylor” via Organizing for Action; “We’ve had a good month” via Nan Rich; “Dirty little secret …” via Max Steele of the Florida Democratic Party

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The Republican Party of Florida will start a two-day quarterly meeting in Tampa. Gov. Rick Scott is expected to take part during Saturday’s session, which also will include the election of a new party chair.

… A FEW GRUMBLES ABOUT TOP-DOWN INFLUENCE via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Florida Republicans are expected to make Clay County GOP Chairwoman Leslie Dougher the new state party chair … Dougher has been endorsed by Sen. Marco Rubio, House Speaker Will Weatherford and a host of Republican activists and elected officials. No other candidate has announced interest in the job, though there’s no requirement to do so before nominations open during Saturday morning’s meeting.

Voting is limited to 255 Republicans — the chairman, state committeeman and state committeewoman from each of Florida’s 67 counties, plus Republican members of Congress, Gov. Rick Scott, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, cabinet members, Senate President Don Gaetz, Speaker Weatherford and 10 appointees apiece of Scott, Gaetz and Weatherford.

The substantial backing for Dougher emerged quickly after Curry’s announcement and rubs a few Republicans the wrong way.

“I think the new chairman should be picked from the ground up and not the hierarchy down,” said St. Lucie County GOP Committeewoman Mary Ann Russell. “I think there’s some people that might want to run but I think they’re afraid they’re going to be denigrated if they do.”


Florida’s Republican Liberty Caucus (RLC) wants the Republican Party of Florida to “Come Clean in 2015.”

Campaign finance reform will be the RLC’s top priority as part of the “Come Clean in 2015” campaign, as they seek to end the “legal laundering” of millions of dollars in campaign contributions through political committees controlled by legislative leaders, as well as both Republican and Democrat parties of Florida.

The RLC of Florida is holding a press conference at 8:30 am, on Saturday, just prior to the RPOF Quarterly Meeting. The meeting will take place at the RLC of Florida literature table, before the General Session. There, the group will highlight specific examples of the ongoing ethical challenges and abuses associated with Florida’s campaign finance laws, how the parties are willing participants in the process, and recommend revisions to campaign finance statutes.

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Jennifer Carroll abruptly resigned as Florida’s lieutenant governor in March 2013. It was a rather bizarre event, even by Tallahassee standards. She released a short resignation letter with no details. The timing was odd — right at the start of the legislative session.

Gov. Scott was initially silent, but eventually appeared, the next day, without Carroll, and gave comments, brief and lukewarm, saying she did the right thing for her state and for her family, and that he would wait until after session to consider a replacement.

Adam Hollingsworth, not Scott, showed up at her office with a prepared, two-sentence resignation letter. Hollingsworth, Scott’s third chief of staff in as many years, waited outside her door while she was being questioned by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement about her work with Allied Veterans of the World.

That same day, police arrested 57 people in a gambling ring tied to Allied and its Internet cafes. Carroll was not charged and denies any wrongdoing while under contract with Allied to provide them public relations services through her company.

That begs the question: Didn’t the governor know about her ties to Allied or shouldn’t he have as a part of the normal vetting process?

Why is this important? It’s because it tells a lot about a person’s character.

When Scott thought she could do something for him, he tied himself closely to her. Once she served the intended purpose, he ignored her. When he perceived that there was no more use for her, he discarded her.

Scott didn’t have the common decency to sit down with Carroll and ask her for her resignation face to face. And he didn’t allow her the dignity to stand by him when he announced her resignation.

SCOTT GOES AFTER CRIST ON THE ECONOMY via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

During a campaign stop in Manatee County, Gov. Scott made clear that he will not shy away from pinning the state’s economic woes on former Gov. Charlie Crist.

Scott was at Marine Concepts touting that company’s creation of 200 jobs in Florida since he took office. But while touting the state’s economic progress, Scott pointed to the problems in the economy while Crist was governor. Scott told the crowd at the warehouse facility that under Crist, Florida lost 832,000, home prices dropped, more people were leaving Florida than coming in, and the state’s tourism was stagnant.

Crist’s campaign responded by saying the state’s recovery was actually started under Crist and that Scott has impeded job growth.

“Florida’s economic recovery began under Charlie Crist because he had the right priorities — education, the middle class, and saving the jobs of first responders. As soon as Rick Scott was elected, his first budget cut education by $4.8 billion so he could give tax breaks to his corporate contributors,” said Kevin Cate, a spokesperson for Crist.


The conventional wisdom is that Scott has overtaken Crist for two reasons: a) Scottworld — the Florida GOP, Scott’s political committee, and Scott’s campaign — have spent as much as $8 million in television advertising to batter Crist; and b) conservatives and Republicans are, concurrent with or subsequent to the ad barrage, are “coming home” to Scott.

Polling outfits SurveyUSA and McLauchlan and Associates have not provided the crosstabs for their polls and, without them, it’s impossible to nail down where Scott is gaining ground or where Crist is losing it. But, again, as Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald supposes, “it’s likely among Republicans and conservative independents.”

Or is it?

If you look at the crosstabs of the poll commissioned by the statewide business group (which had Scott down by four in February and down by one in May), you’ll see both Crist and Scott holding on to 80 percent of their respective party bases. So, indeed, now that Scott and Crist are equally strong with their core voters, the race is tied.

Yet, what’s also in this poll is a very interesting number — one that could prove advantageous to Governor Scott. Forty percent of Floridians think the state is on the “right track,” up from just 34 percent in the February poll. Mind you, 47 percent of Floridians think the state is headed in the wrong direction. But it’s hard to separate Scott’s improvement in this poll from the increased number of Floridians who believe the state is moving in the right direction.


At a swanky luncheon inside a softly lit ballroom at the Coconut Grove Ritz-Carlton, Crist had a few things to say. Among them: His favorite movie is Philadelphia; his new book costs $25 but will be cheaper in paperback; and his campaign had just received a check from Steven Spielberg.

The fundraising event was sponsored by the Miami Dade Justice Association, the association of local trial lawyers. Crist, a former trial lawyer himself, predictably started things off by buttering up the crowd. “I suspect that’s why you love the law,” he concluded. “Because when you can actually right a wrong, it’s really an amazing thing.”

For a half hour or more over the lawyers’ clanking forks, he drifted between everything from his daily phone calls with his father (“The Real Charlie Crist”) to his new book (“I think it’ll make you laugh, but it might make you cry”) to Rick Scott’s opposition to high-speed rail (“I’m like, ‘what was that about?'”).

He also regularly interrupted himself for a stream of awkward jokes and shout outs to donors.

At one point Crist began ripping on the governor for not being a populist. The governor, he said, didn’t understand transportation problems because he rode around in his helicopter instead of driving on the freeways. But then he seemed to catch himself. Not that there was anything wrong with helicopters, he corrected. “Some of you might have one. God bless you if you do. And if you do we’d like to use it during the campaign.”


Deep-pocketed Democrats will welcome Crist with open checkbooks on June 21 at the Bridgehampton home of Lauren and Charles Fernandez.

The other hosts include talent manager Darren Bettencourt, taxi medallion banker Andrew Murstein, and Bobby and Jill Zarin. Jill is formerly one of the “Real Housewives of New York City.”

TWEET, TWEET: @TBTia: I see @CharlieCrist is trying to give @SteveCrisafulli & @willweatherford a run for their money in the “most promoted tweets” competition


When it comes to discussing who might be the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2014, Bill Nelson has acted a bit curiously over the past year. He has been coy about Crist, sometimes flirting with the possibility that he’d insert himself into the race, as unlikely as that might seem for the 71-year-old, 13-year U.S. Senator.

With a few weeks to go before the qualification period for the August primary ends, Nelson was again asked today outside his district office in Tampa if he might still throw his hat into the ring.

“I have no intention of running for governor,” he repeated. But when pressed if he had completely extinguished the idea he said, “What is it, June?” before being interrupted and told that there are still several more weeks before the qualifying period ends. “I have told you all consistently: I have no plans to run. I have no intention of running,” before adding that he’s in place to become the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and number two on the Armed Services Committee.

CL asked Nelson about his previously stated reticence regarding a Crist candidacy. When asked how he was feeling about Crist today, Nelson would only say, “I will support the Democratic nominee and I will support that person enthusiastically.”


A landmark trial over whether Florida legislators broke the law and used a “shadow” process when drawing up new political maps for Congress (was at a point) held behind closed doors.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis removed members of the public and the media from the courtroom during the eighth day of the ongoing trial.

Lewis had said before the trial that he did not want to close the courtroom during the legal challenge to Florida’s congressional districts being brought by a coalition of groups including the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and a group of voters.

But he was forced to do so after the Florida Supreme Court ruled this week that up to 538 pages of evidence —which includes emails and maps — must not be disclosed in open court.

The Supreme Court took that step after an appeals court had previously blocked the use of the evidence entirely.

Lawyers representing Data Targeting, a Gainesville-based political consulting firm, and its employees contend that revealing the documents violates their First Amendment rights and also includes trade secrets.

The attorneys, whose fees are being paid by the Republican Party of Florida, filed an emergency petition Wednesday to get U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to block the evidence. But Thomas had not acted by the time the courtroom was closed.

Several news organizations, including The Associated Press, publicly objected to the closing which occurred during the questioning of Republican consultant Rich Heffley. The courtroom also remained closed when Pat Bainter, a top employee at Data Targeting, took the stand.


Minutes before the judge closed the courtroom in the redistricting trial, the plaintiffs dropped a bombshell.

(T)he mystery mapmaker, Alex Posada, a former FSU student and private citizen who had allegedly submitted the map touted by legislators as the foundation for its congressional map, said he had nothing to do with it.

Posada, a former member of the FSU College Republicans, who appeared at a June 2012 public hearing in Tallhassee to commend the legislature’s open process, allegedly testified under oath that he never drew the map, never submitted it, and a gmail account in his name that was used to submit the maps never existed.

TWEET, TWEET: @JKennedyReport: Simple pleasures of redistricting trial: Maps named Sputnik, Schmedloff and Frankenstein. NFL HOFer Jack Lambert, “bag boy” references.

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Polls have consistently shown higher levels of support among younger voters for legalizing marijuana, whether for medicinal or recreational use. The bigger question in Florida is whether a proposed constitutional amendment legalizing medicinal marijuana will actually raise young voter turnout to a presidential election year level. If so, it would buck normal mid-term election year patterns when young voter turnout usually plummets.

There are plenty of reasons to believe that even a marijuana-related amendment may not be enough to spike college student turnout in November. A recent study by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics found that young adults are losing interest in voting, with just one-fourth saying they definitely will vote this fall.

On the other hand, there are reasons to speculate that a marijuana-related ballot initiative could increase young voter turnout significantly. Since the 1960s, the leading premise has been: “Mention marijuana on a college campus and you will definitely get young voters’ attention.”  But do today’s college students believe that their classmates’ interest in an issue will actually turn into action—voting—and, if so, why? To answer these questions, I went straight to the source and asked 34 college students in the state’s largest and most competitive media market to voluntarily weigh in via individual written responses.

The vast majority (85%) predicts that the medicinal marijuana amendment will increase young voter turnout on college campuses this fall to presidential election year levels.  A slightly higher percentage (88%) believes that a recreational use ballot initiative would have yielded a higher turnout.

FLORIDAMARIJUANAINFO.ORG LAUNCHES STATEWIDE CALENDAR OF MARIJUANA-RELATED EVENTS has launched a comprehensive calendar of events related to medical and recreational marijuana issues throughout Florida. An unbiased hub of free information and news on “all things marijuana,” the calendar serves as a central reference source for interested citizens throughout the state.

“Until now, there hasn’t existed a consolidated listing of information on marijuana-related events in Florida,” said David Cohn, Editor-In-Chief of “Our website offers useful information on legislation and medical news related to marijuana, and the centralized calendar is just one more extension of our services.”

Upcoming events listed on the new calendar include information and links on workshops, conferences, seminars, job fairs and more. The calendar will be updated frequently and event attendees and organizers are encouraged to post information and photos on the site, as well here.


On Sunday, Floridians face another hurricane season, as retailers gear up for a sales tax holiday on hurricane preparedness items beginning May 31. The Atlantic hurricane season runs June 1 through November 30.

The FRF has created a flyer to distribute to all members that carry tax-exempt items, encouraging residents to visit the Florida Division of Emergency Management for additional resources for hurricane season preparations.

The 2014 holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, May 31, and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, June 8. Specific items covered by the Sales Tax Holiday include:

  • Portable self-powered light sources selling for $20 or less
  • Portable self-powered, two-way, or weather band radios selling for $50 or less
  • Tarpaulin or other flexible waterproof sheeting selling for $50 or less
  • Self-contained first-aid kit selling for $30 or less
  • Ground anchor system or tie-down kit selling for $50 or less
  • Gas or diesel fuel tank selling for $25 or less
  • Package of AA-cell, C-cell, D-cell, 6-volt, or 9-volt batteries, excluding automobile and boat batteries, selling for $30 or less
  • Non-Electric food storage cooler selling for $30 or less
  • Portable generator that is used to provide light or communications or preserve food in the event of a power outage selling for $750 or less
  • Reusable ice selling for $10 or less 

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We’ve known since March this day would likely come; state Sen. John Thrasher formally applied to become FSU’s next president.

There had been rumors ever since President Eric Barron stepped down that Thrasher wanted the job. Former FSU President Sandy D’Alemberte nominated Thrasher last week and a search advisory committee voted to interview him on June 11 ahead of all other candidates.

This came upon the recommendation of the search consultant, who said Thrasher’s nomination was “casting a long shadow” that had scared off other potentially strong candidates from applying for the job.

In a four-page cover letter, Thrasher highlights his love for FSU, his alma mater, and his background in politics and fundraising acumen. He also submitted a resume; he told the Times/Herald earlier he hadn’t needed to update it in years.

Meanwhile, folks are already lining up to run for the Senate seat Thrasher would abandon if he gets the FSU job. And if a new person joins the Senate, it could break a reported tie in the race to become Senate president in 2016 between Joe Negron and Jack Latvala.

The race could have implications outside the district, as Negron and Latvala wage a battle to become Senate president in 2016. Both are trying to line up support among Senate Republicans, and Thrasher, a savvy insider, has been a key supporter of Negron.


Before taking her seat in the state Legislature, Rep. Amanda Murphy already had some notions about rough-and-tumble politics thanks to a class trip 25 years ago.

From the gallery, Murphy and a handful of classmates from Gulf High School in Port Richey watched entranced as a debate on the House floor erupted into a red-faced shouting match.

Now 43, Murphy no longer sits in the gallery. She’s navigating Florida’s volatile political landscape as a newly minted Democratic lawmaker from District 36 in west Pasco County.

Now back in her district, Murphy has had time to reflect on the two-month legislative session that ended in April.

She credits Pasco Republicans — Rep. Richard Corcoran and House Speaker Weatherford, along with Senators John Legg and Wilton Simpson — with showing her the ropes and said the experience rubbing elbows with lawmakers, including those across the aisle, debunked some myths.

Politics is alive and well, she said, but the House’s 74 Republicans and 46 Democrats regularly crossed party lines, and district priorities usually trumped ideological ones except on hot-button core issues like gun control and abortion.

“It’s not as partisan as I thought,” said Murphy, who describes herself as “very moderate.”

DAVE HOOD’S ON FOUND DEAD IN POOL via the Daytona Beach News-Journal

The son of Rep. Dave Hood was found dead Thursday morning in a pool at an Ormond Beach neighbor’s home, police said.

The cause of Randall Clay Hood’s death has not been confirmed, but the person who found the 26-year-old Ormond Beach man, who goes by Clay, called 9-1-1 after spotting Clay Hood floating in a swimming pool at 15 Colonial Circle just after 8:15 a.m., dispatch records show.

Ormond Beach police confirmed shortly after 3:40 p.m. that they are investigating the apparent drowning.

Police spokesman Officer Keith Walker said in a release that police and fire crews from Ormond Beach confirmed Clay Hood was dead upon their arrival.

Dave Hood, an attorney and investor who also is a former mayor of Ormond Beach, said Thursday afternoon that he didn’t know what happened, he just knew his son was dead.

“It’s a living hell,” the representative said.

According to the 9-1-1 call released by officials, Clay Hood had visited with his neighbors John Pyle and James Harper Jr., who live at 15 Colonial Circle, Wednesday night before they found him in the pool the next morning.


On Context Florida: At this point, Peter Schorsch says there is probably no denying Republican incumbent Rick Scott has taken a narrow lead over his likely Democratic challenger, Charlie Crist. Business tycoon Mark Cuban said he would cross the street if approached by a black youth wearing a hoodie, a comment that Mark O’Brien finds very revealing. When it comes to net neutrality, Daniel Tilson wants us to think about the extent to which equal, open access to the worldwide web has made possible everything from democratic liberation movements toppling repressive regimes, to learning and information-sharing capacities for our kids that are virtually limitless. Linda Grist Cunningham asks if it matters that as an American consciousness, we have so little understanding of the context and histories of three holidays — Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Independence Day.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Jessica Ehrlich, Brendan McLauchlin, Mark Proctor, Aaron Sharockman

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9:Congressional candidate Joe Newman

Political Connections on CF 13: Charlie Crist

The Usual Suspects which airs on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Steve Vancore, Sean Pittman, Robert Weissart

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Kevin Cate’s better half, Ashley. Celebrating this weekend is 30-under-30 rising star Keith Fernandez and Erica Villanueva.

THE FINAL TWEET of @DrMayaAngelou, last Friday: “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”

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.