Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 6.16.16 — The transformation of Orlando

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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.


I’m not religious enough to cite scriptural references in normal circumstances, but we all know the story of Job, and how he endured one calamity after another while his so-called friends tried to convince him to disavow his faith, yet he never did.

Welcome to Orlando, where the rhetorical question, “What else can happen?” is loaded with genuine dread.

The gargantuan shadow of despair that dropped from the Pulse massacre Sunday does not — must not and cannot — hide other recent tragedies, such as Friday night’s very public murder of beautiful, young singer Christina Grimmie at an Orlando concert venue; or Tuesday night’s horror of a 2-year-old boy on a family vacation to the Happiest Place on Earth who was dragged off by an alligator into Seven Seas Lagoon.

Don’t look for Orlando to lose faith. But how much can one people be expected to endure in one week?

Wednesday morning, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs offered an answer.

“There is some healing,” Dyer said. “And I think there will be more understanding and discussions and more willingness to open and embrace diversity and equality. So if there is any good at all to come out of this, it’s the fact that we stand more united than ever and the fact that we have more understanding of each other.”

“This is a very difficult time,” Jacobs said. “We are very focused on what we need to do to help the victims and to help the families, and I think that has made it easier. I know that’s the way our entire community feels.”

Those so-called friends urging Orlando away from its faith are hardly friendly. They are called Wrath, urging Orlando to promote armed vengeance; Narrow-Mindedness, calling on Orlando to denounce its Muslim brothers; and Westboro, commanding Orlando to recoil from its embrace of its LGBT community.

Orlando, its leaders and people are not listening to them.

The two mayors speak of unprecedented outpourings. The Equality Florida special fund set up Monday to help the LGBT victims and their families was at more than $4.4 million early Wednesday afternoon. The OneOrlando fund, set up by Dyer and Jacobs for longer-term assistance, has already cleared $3.6 million and counting in its first 24 hours.

An estimated 5,000 Orlandoans turned out to donate blood. So many services, from funeral arrangements to legal assistance to child care, are being donated that Dyer turned over the entire Camping World Stadium to set up a one-stop shop for victims’ families in need. Countless memorials and vigils have sprung up. Donated food, gifts and assistance have poured in from restaurants, flower shops and others to support the medical, law enforcement and volunteer armies.

More than that, Orlando is transformed; a fact that has been made clear to everyone.

“Our community has started to think about different ways to approach each other. Last night we were at an interdenominational prayer service and had representation from many different churches and religions, and there were many from the LGBT, the huge community there, and there was a lot of reflection by those who might not have been supportive of that community in the past,” Dyer said Wednesday.

“Last night was the most dramatic change I have ever seen in how our churches respond to the LGBTQ community,” Jacobs added. “Last night seeing all of those faith-based leaders come together saying we want to hug and to pray for all of those in the LGBT community who have been either directly or indirectly affected. That’s a transformation.”

HOW TO MAKE ‘THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS’ MEANINGFUL AGAIN via Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post — Treating prayer as a substitute for action after yet another mass shooting can seem like an obscene bait-and-switch. But the anger in response to “thoughts and prayers” suggests widespread failures of communication around what prayer consists of and what it’s supposed to accomplish … A number of people I spoke to about prayer in the wake of the Pulse attack suggested that explaining that connection, and making manifest the work that is inspired by prayer, could go a long way toward making offers of prayer seem more meaningful. Gil Steinlauf, the senior rabbi at the Adas Israel Congregation, a Conservative synagogue in Washington … wrote in an email that for Jews, prayers “seek to orient ourselves in the grand scheme of the ongoing relationship between God and the Jewish people. That relationship is defined by a covenant that calls us to action, i.e., the mitzvot, or commandments that lead to a more holy and just world … For Jews today, prayer is inconceivable as divorced from action … Many in our community hear the hypocrisy in their offering prayers while simultaneously working on discriminatory legislation against our community, and by promoting legislation that is turning our American streets into war zones with the ready availability of assault weapons,” Rabbi Steinlauf wrote. At the end of the day … the backlash against “thoughts and prayers” offered up by positioning politicians is a well-earned one.

DRAG QUEEN WHO ESCAPED ORLANDO SHOOTING CALLS FOR THE MUSIC TO PLAY ON via Lane DeGregory of the Tampa Bay Times — Angelica Sanchez was dancing at Pulse when gunfire crackled through the club. Somehow, she escaped the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Too many of her friends were among the 49 victims who did not. “Every single one of those people was happy that night,” Angelica sobbed into the microphone. “That night, they didn’t have a care in the world. They were surrounded by friends, who were their family. They were comfortable there and knew they belonged.” She and five other performers staged the event Wednesday to raise money for the victims’ families, and for Pulse employees.

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PRESIDENT OBAMA EXPECTS ‘AN EMOTIONAL TRIP’ TO ORLANDO via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald — The trek has become a sadly frequent one for Obama, whose presidency has coincided with several other notable mass shootings like those in San Bernardino, California, and Charleston, South Carolina, last year and in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. While in Orlando, Obama will visit with families of the dead and the 53 people who were injured when Omar Mateen shot up the Pulse nightclub. The president also plans to meet with surgeons, doctors and nurses who treated the wounded, and law enforcement officials and first-responders who responded to the shooting … Specific details on the visit haven’t been released. But during the hours that he’s in town, Obama is expected also to attend a prayer vigil at the Amway Center … Obama wants to offer “comfort and support to a community that’s grieving” … it will be “an emotional trip” for the president. “The president understands that he is a symbol of the country. And when he travels to a community and meets with a family that has endured a terrible tragedy, he’s offering a message of condolence and comfort on behalf of the American people.”

OBAMA, RICK SCOTT SPEAK 3 DAYS AFTER ORLANDO SHOOTING via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Scott and Obama spoke at 12:40 p.m. Wednesday about the mass shooting over the weekend … Scott made headlines when he said that Obama had not called him in the days after the shooting, which left 50 people, including the gunman, dead and 53 injured. Jackie Schutz, Scott’s communications director, said Obama made the phone call and “offered his condolences.” During the call, Scott reiterated his request for the Obama administration to make a federal emergency declaration in the wake of the shooting …  The call was on a revised public schedule released at roughly 3 p.m., more than two hours after the phone call. On Monday, Scott did speak on the phone with Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s top senior advisers.

SCOTT ACTIVATES FLORIDA DISASTER FUND FOR ORLANDO MASSACRE, CALLS FOR DONATIONS — To make a contribution, visit Volunteer Florida is actively working with local partners and the Governor’s Office to identify unmet needs. In the coming days, the Volunteer Florida Foundation will accept requests for funding from organizations with the capacity to fill unmet needs. Continue to check the Volunteer Florida website for updates on this process. Donations to the Florida Disaster Fund are made to the Volunteer Florida Foundation and are tax deductible … 100 percent of the money raised through the Florida Disaster Fund will go directly to those impacted. … Dyer confirmed reports that Mateen had been driving around the night of the slaughter, visiting locations, possibly casing potential targets for an attack.

PAM BONDI STRIKES BACK AGAINST CNN, ANDERSON COOPER via Florida Politics  Bondi suggested she was the victim of a CNN hit job a day after Anderson Cooper challenged her position on gay rights in a live interview. “The sad thing about it was, Anderson was filming in front of a hospital where people were clinging for their lives,” she said. “We’ve been dealing with price-gouging issues, with potential scams so people could donate to legitimate charities. That’s what they told us they wanted to talk about.” The interview “was supposed to be about helping victims’ families, not creating more anger and havoc and hatred,” Bondi said. “You know what, there’s a time and place for everything. But yesterday wasn’t the time or the place, in front of a hospital, when we could have been helping victims.

COOPER: BONDI “INCORRECT” IN HER CRITICISM OF THEIR INTERVIEW via Florida Politics – The CNN newsman said on his Wednesday night program that the Florida attorney general was “either mistaken or she’s not telling the truth.” He said he asked her what she wanted to talk about and she “mentioned possible scams that arise in the wake of tragedy.” He then held up a sheaf of “pre-interview notes” in which Bondi’s staff told a CNN producer not to ask her about specifics of the shooting investigation or about her personal views on gun control. Cooper explained he decided to ask her about her “contradictory” comments about the LGBT community based on other television interviews she’s done. “Miss Bondi is … championing her efforts to help survivors, but the very right which allows gay spouses to bury their dead loved ones is a right that would not exist if Miss Bondi had had her way,” he said.

OMAR MATEEN TOLD POLICE HE’D STRAP BOMBS TO HOSTAGES, ORLANDO MAYOR SAYS via Frances Robles and Richard Perez-Pena of The New York Times — Amid the massacre … while the gunman held dozens of people hostage, the police got word from multiple sources that the killer had booby-trapped himself, hostages and the building with explosives, Orlando’s mayor said … Mateen told the police by phone that he would strap explosives to four hostages and place them strategically in the corners of the building, Mayor Dyer told reporters. People trapped inside made panicked calls and text messages to 911 operators, friends and family members, also warning that Mateen was talking about bombs, he said.

GUNMAN POSTED TO FACEBOOK RIGHT BEFORE ORLANDO SHOOTING via CBS News — Mateen referenced the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in a Facebook message posted moments before the Orlando nightclub shooting … “You kill innocent women and children by doing us airstrikes. Now taste the Islamic state vengeance [sic],” Mateen wrote … “In the next few days you will see attacks from the Islamic State [ISIS] in the usa,” the post said. An Orlando television producer said he also received a phone call from Marteen during the shooting … Matthew Gentili, a producer for local cable News 13, said he was gathering information on the shooting at about 2:45 in the morning, about 45 minutes after Mateen started killing people inside Pulse nightclub, when the phone rang. “I answered the phone as I always do: ‘News 13, this is Matt.’ And on the other end, I heard, ‘Do you know about the shooting?'” Gentili said. As the producer replied that he had been getting reports about it, Gentili said the caller cut him off. “I’m the shooter. It’s me. I am the shooter,” the person on the other end said. Gentili said he was left stunned and speechless, and then caller said he did it for ISIS, before starting to speak in Arabic. Gentili said whether it was English or Arabic, he had a hard time understanding the caller. Eventually, the news producer said he asked the caller where he was calling from, to which the caller replied it was “none of my (expletive) business … It was silent for a while. I asked him: ‘Is there anything else you want to say?’ ” Gentili said. “He said no and hung up the phone.”

FEDERAL GRAND JURY INVESTIGATING ORLANDO NIGHTCLUB RAMPAGE via Del Quentin Wilber and Rene Stutzman of the Orlando Sentinel — Federal authorities have turned to a grand jury to help investigate the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub over the weekend that left 49 people dead and 53 wounded, a U.S. law enforcement official said. Its target may be the gunman’s widow, Noor Salman, 27, of Fort Pierce. If she knew in advance about the attack and did not alert authorities, she could be arrested.

— “Federal Prosecutor: Could be ‘days, weeks … years’ before Orlando shooting probe concludes” via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

MEN AND WOMEN OF CLOTH AND RAINBOW UNITE IN ORLANDO via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — In what some called a nationally unprecedented showing, dozens of Central Florida clergy representing faiths including the Roman Catholic Church, mainline Protestant churches, evangelical churches, Hispanic evangelical churches, African-American churches, synagogues and mosques all heeded Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs‘ call to pledge support for each other and for Orlando’s gay community. “I can’t think of the best word, but historic,” said Victoria Kirby York of the National LGBTQ Task Force, who came to Orlando from Washington D.C. to help. “Because of the churches present: there are a number of denominations present that haven’t historically been supportive of the LGBTQ community” … “That Gospel says I love my Muslim brothers, I love my LGBTQ community, I love every child of God,” said the Rev. Larry Mills of the Mount Sinai Baptist Church. “We stand with our commissioners, we stand with our mayors, we stand as united clergy to let the world know we are indeed Orlando strong and Orlando united,” Mills continued. “And we are here to pray our way through it” … similar testimonials came from Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islam Society of Central Florida, Rabbi Yosef Konikov of Chabad of South Orlando, the Rev. Jorge Torres of St. James Catholic Cathedral, the Rev. Terry Pierce of Joy Metropolitan Church and the Rev. David Uth of First Baptist Church, among others.

ACTS OF KINDNESS EMERGE AFTER SHOOTING via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — The grandmother sat alone on her journey to Orlando, where her 20-year-old grandson, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, had been killed at Pulse nightclub. As JetBlue flight attendant Kelly Karas collected drink orders on that Tuesday morning flight, she asked passengers to write their condolences. By the time the trip was over, 30 pages of messages of hope, love and sorrow had been written. That simple gesture was one of the random acts of kindness that has emerged in the aftermath of the nation’s deadliest shooting. People and businesses have donated water, printing services and diapers; a little girl passed out homemade cards, and folks hauled supplies for volunteers.

JOHN MICA DEMAND PROBE OF WHY ORLANDO DIDN’T GET TERROR MONEY via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — When the U.S. Department of Homeland Security handed out $580 million in anti-terrorism grants in January for the second year in a row, Orlando didn’t get a dollar — because the threat of terror here was judged to be too low. … Mica called for a congressional investigation into Homeland Security’s evaluation process, and Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson urged the agency to revisit its assessment of Central Florida. Mica decried the agency’s “incredible, total miscalculation of the threat risk from a terrorist attack” to the Orlando area as “one of the worst security miscalculations since 9/11.”

— “Orlando Democrats call for special session to block terror suspects from guns” via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

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DAYS UNTIL: Federal candidate qualifying closes — 8; State candidate qualifying closes — 8; Domestic absentee ballots go out in primary — 40; Early voting begins in primaries — 66; Primary elections — 75; Deadline to register to vote in Primary Election — 46; Deadline to register to vote in General Election — 117; Absentees sent in General Election — 110; Early voting begins in General Election — 135; General Election — 145.

POLL: HILLARY CLINTON AND DONALD TRUMP UNDERWATER IN FLORIDA via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO – Clinton garnered a 43 percent favorability rating, compared to 53 percent unfavorable, while Trump had 43 percent favorable to 54 percent unfavorable. Clinton had a 1 point margin of error, while Trump’s margin of error was 2. The unfavorable ratings for both candidates are unusually high, so researchers looked into the reasons why. A separate poll of 2,001 registered voters between May 27 and 30 points to trust problems for Clinton, while Trump faces an assortment of criticisms, with the most common complaint that he’s a racist. The poll was conducted online, with the data statistically weighted.

MARCO RUBIO SAYS HE WILL RECONSIDER DECISION NOT TO SEEK RE-ELECTION via Ledyard King of USA Today — After pledging last year not to seek re-election because he wanted to focus on his presidential campaign and insisting in recent weeks that nothing has changed, the first-term GOP senator told reporters on Capitol Hill … he’ll at least discuss the idea with his wife and kids. Rubio has been under mounting pressure lately both from allies in Florida and GOP leaders in Washington to reconsider his no-re-election pledge. His willingness to consider re-election comes as Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera said he’d abandon his campaign for Senate if Rubio got in. Lopez-Cantera, who is close to Rubio, has encouraged the senator to reconsider his decision and seek a second term.

HERE’S WHY RUBIO PROBABLY WON’T RUN via S.V. Date of The Huffington Post — It’s about the money. Tight deadlines aren’t the only thing impeding Rubio’s return to the Senate. His newfound sense of duty could also run up against the reality of paying the bills. “I think his instincts are to get out into the private sector and raise his income level,” said Al Cardenas, a former Florida GOP chair … That tension between public office and hard cash has defined Rubio’s entire political career, as his salary increased yet failed to keep up with his upgraded lifestyle. As Rubio’s power grew in the part-time Florida legislature, so did his outside income, rising from less than $100,000 in 2000, when he was first elected, to triple that less than four years later, after he had secured the votes necessary to become state House speaker. That enabled his move from a $175,000 home in West Miami to a much bigger, $550,000 home a few blocks away — on which he immediately took out a $135,000 home equity loan. One other factor could be at play for Rubio, Cardenas said: the danger that he might not win. Rubio’s popularity took a beating in his home state during his presidential run, which ended with the Florida senator losing his home state to eventual nominee Donald Trump by 18 points. “If you run for re-election, and you lose, your political future is over,” Cardenas said. “That’s a very significant risk to take in this political climate.”

MY TAKE — CLC’S ATROCIOUSLY TIMED CONVERSATION WITH RUBIO — Lopez-Cantera agreeing to withdraw from the race for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat if Rubio decides to run for re-election is as surprising to see as was watching Al Cowlings chauffeur O.J. Simpson in the white Bronco. Some men are just born to be second banana. Yet the setting for the conversation between the two men where Lopez-Cantera offered to step aside is beyond cringe-worthy.

“This is bigger than me. And this isn’t about me. And it’s not about you. It’s about our country and this election,” Lopez-Cantera said to Rubio, recounting the conversation for Politico. “It’s deeply consequential. … In the current field, I’m the best candidate in the general election. But I’m not looking at this through rose-colored glasses.” Putting aside the question of who talks like that — “It’s deeply consequential” — to a close friend and the ridiculousness of Lopez-Cantera’s assertion that “I’m the best candidate in the general election,” how atrocious is it that the Lieutenant Governor of the state of Florida thought the most appropriate time to discuss the 2016 campaign was after just visiting the site of the deadliest mass shooting in the history of this country?

Law enforcement was still securing the crime scene. Trauma surgeons were still operating on a score of victims. An entire community and state were reeling. And that’s when Lopez-Cantera thought it would be appropriate to say to Rubio, ‘Mind if I sit in your pickup truck and talk to you about politics?’

Could CLC not have given it a day and scheduled a face-to-face with Rubio after they left Orlando? It’s not as if Lopez-Cantera has a busy schedule. Again, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Lopez-Cantera would scoot over if Rubio wants to pass him. But you don’t ask out a widow at her husband’s funeral. You don’t ask to see the will while standing at someone’s deathbed. And real leaders don’t talk campaigns and elections before driving away from the site of a mass shooting.

SENATE RACE’S POLITICAL ROOKIES GET AGGRESSIVE AS RUBIO CHATTER GROWS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Some candidates preparing for a fight, while others are signaling that if Rubio gets in, they’ll likely drop out. Republican David Jolly is set to announce his political future … Many speculate that Jolly, who has struggled to raise money, will get out of the race and either not run for any office or seek re-election to his St. Petersburg congressional seat against Democrat Charlie Crist. Fellow Republican Ron DeSantis is privately signaling that if Rubio gets in, he’ll get out … Todd Wilcox said in a statement … announcing that he has officially qualified to run. The race’s second political rookie, Carlos Beruff, has taken a similar aggressive posture to push back against the persistent churn of Rubio rumors. Beruff released a statement … acknowledging “Washington’s candidate, Marco Rubio, is considering running for re-election,” and making clear that would not force him out of the race.

DEMOCRATS WARN RUBIO: LOSE RE-ELECTION AND YOU’LL NEVER RECOVER via Manu Raju of CNN — Top Democrats are plotting a new effort to derail Rubio if he seeks re-election to his Senate seat, saying they will pour millions to defeat the Florida senator in the hopes that a defeat would end his once-rising political career. “Democrats are going to really go after him,” said one high-ranking Democratic source …  “Because if he loses this time, he’s gone for president in 2020.”

SNEAK PEAK: Sabato’s Crystal Ball – The Rubio Calculus – “Still, the incumbent’s poor performance in the Florida presidential primary — Donald Trump beat him by almost 20 points — shows that Rubio isn’t as strong at home as he might have seemed before he became a presidential candidate. Remember: Rubio upset Bush family loyalists when he entered the presidential race against former Gov. Jeb Bush, who started the 2016 presidential primary as a prime contender. Rubio surely would have to mend some fences with some Bush-backing Sunshine State Republican donors and rank-and-file. Additionally, Rubio could face criticism over what may look to some like opportunism — effectively using the Orlando shootings as an excuse to reenter politics. That may or may not be fair, but Rubio would have to deal with that perception nonetheless.”

TWEET, TWEET: @JeremySWallace: Asked by Wolf Blitzer if he’s ready to take on Marco Rubio, Patrick Murphy says: “you bet”

U.S. SENATE TRACKER: Wilcox will be in Jacksonville.

MARY THOMAS RELEASES CD 2 TV AD PROMISING TO ‘TAME THE ESTABLISHMENT’ via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics — The new 30-second spot, entitled “The Fight,” heralds … support for Trump‘s presidential candidacy, congressional term limits, and a staunchly conservative approach to illegal immigration. “Conservative Republican Mary Thomas wants to take on the career politicians who are destroying the America we love,” the ad intones. “Thomas will tame the establishment by passing term limits, eliminating the IRS and taking away special breaks for the powerful.” The spot portrays Thomas talking to older, white rural voters in a dressed-down red plaid shirt as a narrator tosses off a laundry list of conservative talking points. “Unlike weak-kneed politicians, Mary stands strong against amnesty,” the ad continues … “Politicians never seem to fight for us. Conservative Republican Mary Thomas will. Wife, mother, devout Christian. Mary Thomas for Congress.”

FEA TAKING CLOSE LOOK AT FLORIDA LEGISLATIVE RACES via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Union leaders recently met to discuss the possibilities, as a growing number of sitting lawmakers make their campaign decisions. President Joanne McCall has told the Gradebook she wants to make the most effective and efficient use of the FEA’s resources in trying to get a group of lawmakers friendly to public education. With the qualifying deadline a week off, though, the FEA is not yet ready to announce which seats it will focus upon, spokesman Mark Pudlow said … The candidate pool keeps shifting, Pudlow said, mentioning the question marks surrounding such veterans as state Sen. Dwight Bullard and Rep. Irv Slosberg. “We will continue to evaluation candidates who are looking at supporting the folks that teach and work in our schools,” Pudlow said. “We’ve found in the past few years we have had much listening” by lawmakers. “We are working with the labor community to expand our reach and voice.”

TOM LEE’S TOUGH, SURPRISING CHOICE via Florida Politics — I’m a little surprised by Tom Lee’s decision to run for re-election to the state Senate … I’ve had lengthy chats with Lee about his future since a judge drew new district lines that essentially forced him to make a tough decision. Because his current Brandon home now lies in a different district than the one Lee represents, he had three choices: Challenge Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano if he wanted to keep his current seat … Move within the newly drawn boundaries of District 20, which includes parts of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties so that he could run for the Senate again … Run for an at-large seat on the Hillsborough County Commission, where he would have been a heavy favorite. It came down to options 2 or 3 … Lee chose No. 2. Why that surprises me, a little, is because Lee talked to me at length about the lure of bringing his Tallahassee experience to his home county. He has young kids and being able to spend more time with them, especially on weekends, was appealing. Plus, Lee is never shy about saying Tallahassee is where good governance goes to meet a painful end at the hands of lobbyists, special interests and agendas that have little to do with the overall good of Florida. That’s one of the reasons Lee is not the most popular guy in the statewide GOP.

— “Senate candidate Bob Buesing clarifies his stance on TBX” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

SAVE THE DATE: Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano, Sen. Wilton Simpson, and Majority Whip Jim Boyd are hosting a fundraiser for state Rep. Kathleen Passidomo Tuesday, June 21, in her bid for state Senate District 28. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at Pier 22, 1200 First Ave. West in Bradenton. RSVP with Ieva Smidt at or 850-567-8022.

JOE GELLER WILL NOT JOIN SD 38 RACE VACATED BY GWEN MARGOLIS via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics — “While serving in the Senate would certainly be a new challenge, particularly given the district itself, I will not be a candidate for Senate District 38,” said Geller in a statement. “I am honored to serve the people of House District 100 as their Representative, and I am fully committed to seeking re-election to that position. I have a lot left to do as a member of the House, and I am dedicated to the ambitious agenda I have pursued for justice, equality, fairness, safety and prosperity,” said Geller.

FORMER NORTH MIAMI MAYOR KEVIN BURNS TO RUN FOR GWEN MARGOLIS STATE SENATE SEAT via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald — Burns served two terms as mayor from 2005-2009 and was the city’s first openly gay mayor. Burns, a real estate broker, lost a legislative race to Margolis in 2010. The musical chairs may not be over following Margolis’ decision to drop out last week after she took heat for dismissing some of her Democratic opponents as “Haitians.” Sen. Dwight Bullard says he is considering switching districts to run for District 38. “It has been mentioned by party leaders and other electeds about it potentially being a good move for me,” Bullard told the Miami Herald … “The demographics speak to the possibility of an African-American candidate more easily winning the seat than the current seat I am in.” About one-third of the voters in the newly drawn district are black including Haitians and African-Americans. “Without Haitian support I would have never been elected mayor,” said Burns, who is white. Democrats say Andrew Korge is taking a look at the seat. Bay Harbor Islands Mayor Jordan Leonard said he was also considering a bid.


FLORIDA REALTORS ASSOCIATION BACKS ERIC LYNN IN HD 68 RACE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — “The Florida Realtors Association and the work they do is so vital to our community. I am honored to have the support of such an impactful organization,” said Lynn. “I look forward to continuing our work together in bringing affordable housing to the residents of Pinellas County.” Florida Realtors Association is the largest trade association in Florida with more than 155,000 members; thousands of whom reside in St. Petersburg and greater Pinellas County. The Pinellas Realtors Association also has endorsed Lynn.

— “Keith Walters becomes fourth Republican in HD 13 race” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

HAPPENING TONIGHT: State Rep. MaryLynn Magar will hold a fundraiser for her re-election effort in House District 82. Event begins 5 p.m. at the Beer Industry of Florida offices, 110 South Monroe St. in Tallahassee. Also, state Rep. Holly Raschein will hold a fundraiser for her re-election effort in House District 120. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the home of Al and Margaret Gonzalez, 21180 SW. 368thSt. in Homestead.

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BOARD OF EDUCATION TO WEIGH IN ON NEW RULES GOVERNING FLORIDA CHARTER SCHOOLS via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools — Florida’s Board of Education will examine new rules governing charter schools set by state lawmakers last Session … the board is scheduled to meet June 21-22 at Palm Beach State College, to go over the details of HB 7029, the 160-page omnibus education bill. One potential issue is a modified rule on how charter schools can qualify for construction and capital funds. A change could allow charters to qualify for money after being open only two years, instead of three … charter schools earning state grades of an F, or two consecutive D’s, would be ineligible for funds. Schools will be disqualified if they receive an “unsatisfactory” in the state’s school improvement rating system, as opposed to the grading system. Previously only F schools were barred from getting capital funds … charter schools with a larger percentage of low-income students — those receiving free or reduced-price lunches — as well as those with a larger proportion of students with disabilities, would be weighted higher in ranking for state money.

CITRUS DEPARTMENT PASSES REDUCED BUDGET via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The good news: It includes money for the free orange and grapefruit juice travelers can get at the state’s official welcome centers on Interstates 10, 75 and 95 and U.S. 231. The bad news: The preliminary budget includes salary reductions of $1.4 million. The department “will go from 46 positions to 26 positions, with six vacant slots eliminated and 14 filled positions eliminated,” spokeswoman Shelley Rossetter said. The Florida Citrus Commission, which oversees the department … approved the $20.7 million spending plan for 2016-17. It’s a 32 percent decrease from the prior budget year. Normally, the department’s operations are paid for by a tax paid by growers on each box of citrus. But because the state’s citrus crop is shrinking, so are the department’s finances.

— “Meth juice can be counted for charging purposes, court says” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics


Douglas BellTimothy Stanfield, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Tableau Software

Joel Overton, Larry J. Overton & Associates: Braman Management Association

Diana Padgett, Diana Hadi Padgett Governmental Consultant: River Ridge Plantation

Clark Smith, Southern Strategy Group: Intoximeters, Inc.

FIRST LOOK INSIDE THE NEW SHANGHAI DISNEY RESORT via the Los Angeles Times — After five years of construction, $5.5 billion in spending and a month of testing to work out the kinks, Shanghai Disney Resort opens to the public at noon, Shanghai time … 9 p.m. Wednesday in Anaheim …  Shanghai Disneyland features six themed areas, two hotels, a shopping district and 99 acres of gardens, lakes and park … [B]uilding Shanghai Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride, one of the park’s major attractions, involved about 100,000 individuals. With its giant Starbucks, Cheesecake Factory and Wolfgang Puck restaurant, you might for a minute mistake the new Shanghai Disney Resort for theme parks in Anaheim or Orlando … A marching band walks by playing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” then Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” along with a snippet of “When the Saints Go Marching In” … But little differences gradually come to light: Squat toilets? Check. “The Lion King” in Mandarin (with no English subtitles)? Check. Eel over rice and Peking duck pizza for lunch? Check and check.

NEWSPAPER DECLINES ACCELERATE, LATEST PEW RESEARCH FINDS, OTHER SECTORS HEALTHIER via Rick Edmonds of the Poynter Institute  The 13th annual Pew Research State of the News Media Report documents another year of alarming declines for newspapers — the worst since the 2008-2009 recession. Other sectors did much better, with revenues actually growing robustly both for cable channels (up 10 percent) and network news (up 6 percent for evening shows and 14 percent for mornings). More up-to-date surveys of readership provide further cause for discouragement. Pew research in January 2016 found nearly everyone is following news of the presidential race. But only 5 percent said print newspaper coverage in the last week was their “most helpful” source (3 percent local papers and 2 percent national) — by far the lowest among available channels.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to my dear friend, Travis Moore. Celebrating today are Sen. Greg Evers and Democratic operative Omar Khan.

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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