Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 6.20.17 — Georgia on our mind; DSCC smacks Rick Scott; New mailers in SD 40; Dale Swope takes helm at FJA; Happy b’day Matt Harringer

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.

We love Florida politics, but today all eyes (including ours) will be on the special election to replace Rep. Tom Price in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. The race — which pits Democrat Jon Ossoff against Republican Karen Handel — is one of the most expensive House races in U.S. history, with the Associated Press reporting an estimated $50 million will be spent on the race.

It’s also one of the first big tests for President Donald Trump and the Republicans hold on Washington, D.C. A Republican has held the seat since 1979, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Price, who left the post to become Trump’s Health and Human Service Secretary. But as Nate Silver with FiveThirtyEight points out, the congressional district has changed a bit over the years.

Jon Ossoff greets thanks volunteers at a campaign office in Chamblee yesterday. Photo credit: Joe Raedle of Getty Images.

Silver points out that the district went for Mitt Romney by 23 percentage points in 2012, the same year then-President Barack Obama won by 4 points nationally, making it “27 points more Republican than the country as a whole.”  In 2016, however, it picked Trump over Hillary Clinton, by 1.5 points in an election where Clinton won by 2 points. As Silver notes that made the district “only 3 to 4 points more Republican than the national average.”

The race isn’t just a test for Republican, it’s also an early chance for Democrats to prove they can flip a district, especially going into the 2018 midterms. Ossoff, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average, leads Handel 49 percent to 47 percent.

“Democrats sweat the details in Georgia special election” via Gabe Debenedetti of POLITICO – Democrats are closer than they ever could have imagined to winning a House seat in the Republican suburbs of Atlanta, and dealing a resounding blow to Trump. But they’re also gripped by anxiety about what happens if they fall short Tuesday. A loss in Georgia’s special election here could leave the party demoralized, with little to show for all the furious organizing, fundraising and spending in a handful of congressional special elections in the early months of the Trump administration.

– “A pro-Donald Trump group is using Barack Obama’s voice out of context in radio ad for Georgia’s special election” via Andrew Kaczynski of CNN

– “Early-vote turnout soars in Georgia special election via Scott Bland of POLITICO

– “High-stakes referendum on Donald Trump takes shape in a Georgia special election” via Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns of The New York Times

– “The Dems’ new midterm challenge: replicate Jon Ossoff’s success” via Alex Roarty of McClatchy

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. #NeverStopReaching***


DSCC releases new digital ad taking aim at Rick Scott health care” via Florida Politics — The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is once again targeting Gov. Rick Scott over his support of the Republican health care agenda. The committee announced Monday it was launching full-screen, Google takeover ads featuring new versions of a DSCC called “The Price” aimed at Scott’s support of the health care plan and its impact on Florida families. The ad, which the national Democratic organization says will reach targeted voters in Florida who make up key elements of the 2018 midterm electorate, is part of an ongoing six-figure digital ad buy. The 30-second spot features images of a man and woman selling their vehicle and jewelry, before appearing at the hospital bed of a child. At the end of the advertisement, the words “What will Rick Scott’s health care plan cost you?” flash across the screen. Click on the ad below to watch.

“Endorsement watch: Al Jacquet supports Andrew Gillum” via Florida PoliticsState Rep. Jacquet on Monday announced his support of Tallahassee Mayor Gillum for Democratic governor in 2018. “Andrew brings a fresh perspective, energetic spirit, and the bold leadership our state desperately needs in order to best address our economic issues,” said Jacquet, a Lantana Democrat. “It’s time to stand up to special interests whose only concern has been filling their own pockets.” Jacquet is an attorney who speaks four languages and has served as vice mayor of Delray Beach.

Assignment editors: Adam Putnam will take part in a small business roundtable at Molds Unlimited 7620 West 2nd Court in Hileah. The event opens to the media at 10:50 a.m., with media gaggle at 11 a.m. Media interested in attending should RSVP to by 8 a.m.

Matt Caldwell releases video highlighting #2LaneTravels Work Days Tour — The North Fort Myers kicked off his kicked off #2LaneTravels Work Days at Key Largo Fisheries in Key Largo on Friday. The statewide tour is a chance for Caldwell to showcase the industries that the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services oversees. “The people who end up at top are the ones who started in the mail room,” he said in an interview after working skinning yellow tails and weighing shark carcasses. “For me, the same thing is true here, if I can do the best job I can … if I’m blessed to come out on top, I have to understand (the jobs).” … For Caldwell, the work days serve a dual purpose. While it helps it him better understand Florida, he’s also hopeful it will help Floridians better understand what the Agriculture Commissioner does. “When you go around and try to explain to people who aren’t farmers, I remind them of the show Dirty Jobs,’” he said. “Pretty much everything he does is what the Commissioner’s Office oversees.” Caldwell said he expects future work days to include working on cattle ranches, with timber crews, and in tire shops. Click on the image below to watch the ad.

Pinellas, Pasco sheriffs back Ashley Moody for AG — Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco announced this week they were backing the former Hillsborough  in her race to replace Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2018. “We need to continue these aggressive, common-sense initiatives and there is no one better suited to do that than Ashley Moody,” said Gualtieri, who also praised Bondi’s work as attorney general in his statement. “She is a proven prosecutor and experienced leader in the legal community. She knows what it takes to protect our state and she has my full support.” Nocco said he was support Moody for “Attorney General because she shares my priorities and has the experience, knowledge, and determination to keep our state safe and support our law enforcement community and its quest to protect Floridians.”

Democrat Pam Keith to seek U.S. House seat of GOP’s Brian Mast” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – Keith, a former U.S. Navy and NextEra Energy attorney who impressed progressive activists with her 2016 U.S. Senate bid, will run for the Palm Beach County-Treasure Coast congressional seat held by freshman Rep. Mast. “He is a follower in Congress,” Keith said of Mast. “When his constituents were begging to talk to him and tell him why the vote to repeal Obamacare was a horrible idea … he wasn’t even willing to listen to them.” Trump carried District 18 with 53 percent of the vote, but Keith believes the president will be a liability for Mast. “Congress is supposed to be a check on the power of the executive branch and Congress is not doing that. We’ve not seen Brian Mast stand up to anything at this point,” Keith said.

New round of mailers target Alex Diaz de la Portilla in SD 40” via Florida Politics — Making A Better Tomorrow has released two more mailers in the Senate District 40 race. In one ad, the Venice-based political committee claims Diaz de la Portilla “is completely unfit to hold public office.” The mailer points to his failure to report hundreds of campaign contributions and personal financial strife, among other things, as reasons why the group says he is “unfit to lead.” A second mailer, which hit mailboxes last week, claims Diaz de la Portilla “has hurt Florida’s seniors.” The ad reads: “First Alex Diaz de la Portilla cut $2.5 million from programs benefiting Florida seniors, including home car for the elderly, community care and Alzheimer’s disease initiative programs. Then he turned around and cut funding to nursing homes. As if that’s not bad enough, Diaz de la Portilla cut Medicaid payments and imposed higher taxes on facilities that care for seniors.”

Jose Felix Diaz: I’ll return money from Miami developer under investigation ‘if they’re guilty’” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, a Republican candidate for Senate, is “closely” monitoring a federal affordable-housing investigation now examining the largest real estate developer in South Florida, the Related Group, which gave Diaz and his political committee $5,000 this month. “There was no way I could have known” about the investigation, said Diaz, who is running in the District 40 special election. The Miami Herald revealed the investigation on Thursday. The Feds are focusing on the Related Group and its involvement in a low-income apartment building for seniors in Miami’s Shenandoah neighborhood. … On June 6, Related Urban Development Group cut a $3,000 check to Diaz’s political committee, Rebuild Florida, according to the committee’s finance records. A day later, it gave $1,000 directly to Diaz, as did Fortune Urban Construction, Related Group’s wholly owned contractor. “If they’re guilty of any crime, obviously I will return” the money, Diaz said. “In our system, the premise is you’re innocent until you’re found guilty.”

Save the date: Jason Fischer will host a kick-off fundraiser for his 2018 campaign at 6 p.m., Monday at Acosta Corporate Headquarters, 6600 Corporate Center Parkway in Jacksonville. The event will be chaired by Rep. Paul Renner, former Ambassador John Rood, former Education Commissioner Jim Horne. The host committee, according to the invitation, includes Tim Baker, Marty Fiorentino, Mori Hosseini, and Brian Hughes. Special guests include Mayor Lenny Curry, Sens. Aaron Bean, Rob Bradley, and Travis Hutson, and Reps. Cord Byrd, Travis Cummings, Jay Fant, Bobby Payne, Cyndi Stevenson, and Clay Yarborough.

Fourth Republican, Bruno Portigliatti, qualifies for HD 44 special election” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising —  Portigliatti, of Orlando, is chief executive officer of Excellence Senior Living, a developer of luxury assisted living facilities for seniors, and executive vice president of Florida Christian University, a global online university. He also helps manage real estate enterprises for his family’s Portigliatti Group LLC. He joins Kissimmee chamber of commerce chief John Newstreet, former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski, and emergency and urgent care physician Dr. Usha Jain as having qualified for the Republican primary ballot. The other three qualified by petition earlier this month. Qualification closes at noon Tuesday for the special election, set to replace former state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, who resigned to take a judicial appointment.

Daniel Perez takes double-digit lead over Jose Mallea in HD 116 poll” via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News — Political newcomer Daniel Perez is leading his GOP primary opponents by double-digit numbers in the race to replace Jose Felix Diaz in Florida’s 116th House District. According to a poll released Monday, voters would select lawyer Daniel Perez over Miami-Dade Republican Jose Mallea by a 24 percent margin, with 37 percent saying they support Perez while 13 percent would vote for Mallea. When voters were given both positive and negative statements about the two candidates, including their personal backgrounds, issue positions and list of endorsements, Mallea’s lead decreased while Perez’s lead increased to 50 percent.


Assignment editors: Gov. Scott is expected to speak during the New York State Republican Gala at 7 p.m. at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, 811 Seventh Ave. in New York. Lara Trump is also scheduled to attend.

Bill watch – Gov. Scott was presented on Monday with all enrolled bills from the 2017-A Special Session, LobbyTools reported. He has until Tuesday, July 4, to sign them, veto them or let them become law without his signature. The bills are SB 8-A, which implements the state’s constitutional amendment on medical marijuana; SB 6-A, which tweaks public records law related to cannabis users’ caregivers’ information; HB 3A, which boosts public education funding; and HB 1A, which funds tourism marketing and economic development.

“Judge reverses himself, decides ‘pre-reveal’ machines are slots” via Florida PoliticsIn a stunning reversal, a Tallahassee judge on Monday decided he had gotten it “wrong the first time around” and decided that games known as “pre-reveal” are in fact illegal slot machines. Circuit Judge John Cooper, however, was quick to say his change of mind was not influenced by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, but rather by further argument on how pre-reveal, or “no chance,” games actually play. The Tribe’s lawyer had said that allowing the machines, which look and play like slots, violates their exclusive right to offer slot machines outside South Florida, imperiling the state’s cut of the Tribe’s gambling revenue. “That’s a political issue,” Cooper said.

“State tells court to deny Gretna’s request for rehearing” via Florida Politics – Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office told the state Supreme Court on Monday to turn down a request from a North Florida racetrack in a case over whether pari-mutuels can add slot machines in counties that passed referendums allowing them. Last month, the court unanimously ruled against Gretna Racing, meaning that gambling facilities in Gadsden County and in seven other counties that passed referendums allowing slots will not be able to offer them. The court’s unanimous decision found that “nothing in (state gambling law) grants any authority to regulate slot machine gaming to any county.” The state’s response called Gretna’s arguments for rehearing “improper and meritless.”

State health insurance examined – The Office of Economic and Demographic Research will discuss state employee health insurance at a meeting starting 9 a.m. in Room 117 of the Knott Building.


Rick Scott tries to lure ‘upset’ Connecticut firms” via Susan Haigh of The Associated Press – Scott met with community and business leaders in Norwalk. Scott’s visit comes as health insurer Aetna Inc. considers relocating its longtime headquarters from Hartford. Scott says he would “love every company in Connecticut” to think about moving to Florida, where he says taxes and regulations have been cut since he first took office. Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s spokeswoman says “it’s no wonder” Scott would look to Connecticut and be “envious” of its’ high quality of life, good schools and skilled workforce.

Richard Corcoran to Hillsborough schools: Stop blaming the Legislature while you waste money” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times – As it attempts to put its financial house in order, the Hillsborough County School District is being made a poster child for runaway public school spending. The accuser: Corcoran, a driving force behind this year’s sweeping public education bill. His message: The bill (HB 7069) is not why district officials are struggling to pay their expenses. Rather, Corcoran told the Tampa Bay Times, “it’s their bloat, inefficiency and gross over-spending. Their problem is their mismanagement.” But Corcoran insisted that politics had nothing to do with his remarks. “It’s not over how they’re treating me, it’s absolutely over their gross mismanagement,” he said.

Former Miami administrator’s suspicious land deal under state investigation” via David Ovalle, David Smiley and Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald – As a former Miami city official, politically connected construction consultant Ola Aluko boasts years of experience putting together complex development deals and handling millions in government grants. But in one small land deal that turned a six-figure profit, Aluko’s role was curiously obscured. A few years back, he bought a small tract of vacant land in Overtown for $39,000, creating a shell company to do it. Six months later, the shell company filed paperwork installing a new manager — a 23-year-old Miami woman. The next day, the company flipped the parcel for $150,000. The new buyer? St. John Community Development Corporation, a venerated Miami nonprofit — whose president happens to be Aluko. Today, St. John is pursuing a tax-subsidized affordable housing project on the site.

Uber driver cited $250 in Miami for not speaking English” via The Associated Press – Miami-Dade officials say Carmen Hechavarria received a ticket after dropping off passengers at the Miami International Airport. A county ordinance says drivers of ride-hailing apps must be able to communicate in English. Uber spokesman Javi Correoso said the app allows people to communicate even if they don’t speak English. It is how foreign-language speakers and deaf drivers can sign up … 54-year-old Hechavarria was fined after she couldn’t understand when an officer greeted her … Hechavarria speaks Spanish.


Little Marco Rubio shrinks down to Donald Trump’s size” via Richard Cohen of The Washington Post – The pliable Republican senator from Florida and the deranged president of the United States now get along. It was only a bit more than a year ago that they were hurling verbal spitballs at one another … It is refreshing, in an aerosol sort of way, to have that squabble behind us and the room fumigated. Only Trump remains, spewing resentful tweets from somewhere in the White House. I could say that it is a good and wholesome thing to return to yesteryear, when the day’s rancorous politics ended with bourbon and branch and the camaraderie that comes from acknowledging that the real enemy is not across the aisle, but the American people. They can vote you out. But with Trump, there is no going back to the old ways. Just as “Macbeth doth murder sleep,” so has Trump broken Washington.

Rick Scott’s double-whammy against public education in Florida” via the Palm Beach Post editorial board – Nice work, Governor … Scott vetoed most of the policy initiatives sought by Senate President Negron in hopes of catapulting Florida campuses into the nation’s top tier of public universities. That included expansions of the Bright Futures merit-scholarship program and funds to attract world-class professors and researchers and reward top-performing medical, business and law programs. Scott did this because he thought the universities were benefiting at the expense of the 28 state colleges. It’s true that the state colleges fared badly in Tallahassee this spring. But the way to fix those shortcomings is to address them next year — not punish universities for the advances they managed to make. Since when it is wise to throw out the baby with the bathwater? More galling is Scott’s embrace of House Bill 7069, which was rightly reviled by school boards, superintendents, classroom teachers and parents throughout the state. With Scott’s signature, $140 million of public money will be set aside to subsidize privately owned charter schools that can set up near struggling traditional public schools and call them “Schools of Hope.”

Joe Henderson: Corcoran did more than change Florida education, whipped teachers union too” via Florida Politics – Alex Sink made a point that Democrats may finally have a cause to rally around in this state. She referred to HB 7069 (or, as I like to call it, “The Let’s Bust the Teachers’ Union Act”) pushed through by House Speaker Corcoran and signed into law by Gov. Scott. It is the biggest push yet by the Legislature to expand private charter schools with money from the public education budget. I won’t say Corcoran doesn’t care about public education. I won’t even say charter schools don’t have some benefit. But I will say that if you peel back the layers of how we got here, the Republican victory dance is as much about the whipping they inflicted on the state’s largest teachers’ union, the Florida Education Association, as it was the expansion of charters. This was Corcoran showing the union who is boss.

Joe Negron got played — Florida public schools pay price” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board – Negron so badly wanted his top priority this year that he failed to do what citizens expect of the Legislature’s upper chamber: stop bad things from happening … sometimes, doing the right thing means being willing to sacrifice your pet project. But after securing his first priority of the session — a new reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee — Negron fiercely sought his second: a sweeping higher education bill meant to help certain state universities attain “elite” status, while putting community colleges back in their place … HB 7069 was a tough sell in the more-measured Senate. But to secure his pet priority, Negron pushed it through. So, it was something of a stunner this week when the governor vetoed Negron’s priority, and signed Corcoran’s bad bill. In fact, it was a whiplash moment in the topsy turvy world of Florida politics.


“Art Graham, Ron Brisé seek reappointment to Public Service Commission” via Florida Politics – The Nominating Council for the commission, which regulates investor-owned utilities, announced Monday it was “accepting applications to fill two vacancies.” Those refer to the seats now held by Commissioners Graham and Brisé, whose terms are up at the end of the year. A spokeswoman for the commission later said that both men “notified the Nominating Council, as required by law, that they are both seeking reappointment.” The next terms start Jan. 2, 2018. Commissioners are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate. The pay is $131,036 per year.

Personnel note: Dale Swope named president of Florida Justice Association” via Florida PoliticsTampa attorney Swope has been named the 58th president of the Florida Justice Association, the group announced in a press release Monday. Swope took the presidency at the Association’s 2017 Annual Conference in St. Pete Beach last week. The group is the only statewide professional association dedicated to trial attorneys and their clients in the state. “I’m honored my colleagues have placed their trust in me to lead the Florida Justice Association at this consequential time for civil justice in our state and country,” Swope said after being sworn in.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Leslie Dughi, Greenberg Traurig: Vertical Bridge Holdings

Rob Fields, Suskey Consulting: Docusign, Inc.

Richard Pinsky, Akerman: AmDev International

David Shepp, Southern Strategy Group: PuppySpot Group, LLC

— ALOE —

Skateboarders planning ‘rogue’ mission to build concrete ramp in Havana” via Howard Altman of the Tampa Bay Times – Organizers say the plan is to convert an unused drainage ditch on the outskirts of Havana into a skate park with a mini ramp. The effort, they say, does not include seeking approval from authorities in the communist nation. “We are renegades,” said Michelle Box, executive director of Skatepark of Tampa and its associated charity, Boards for Bros. … the Tampa contingent is joining a campaign spearheaded by a Miami skateboarding charity that has been distributing skateboards in Cuba since 2009 … to coincide with international Go Skateboarding Day. “It’s being celebrated around the world,” said Box … “It’s a day to throw down the laptops and skate all day. That’s the impetus and reason and timing for this.” The mission will last 10 days.

Universal plans two hotels on former Wet ‘n Wild site” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Two hotels with 4,000 rooms, three pools and a parking garage will fill the 36-acre former home of Wet ‘n Wild. The plans will be considered by Orlando’s Municipal Planning Board before heading to Orlando City Council members for review July 10 and July 24. City documents provide a first glimpse of the development that sits a mile and a half east of the theme park on I-Drive. Universal has requested the property be rezoned from AC-3 (commercial) to a planned unit development. They also need a waiver to allow the parking garage to front on I-Drive. Current zoning requires parking garages be built on the back of developments in the Metropolitan Activity Center, which has the highest intensity of development outside of downtown Orlando. If approved, city staff has recommended the garage be screened and designed so it doesn’t look like a parking structure.

Website ranks Orlando as best U.S. place for video gamers” via The Associated Press – WalletHub said Orlando’s number of video game stores per-capita and its number of arcades helped push it to the top of the list for the 100 largest cities in the nation. Other cities in the top 5 rankings were Seattle, Austin, New York and Atlanta. The website also considered the share of residents owning smartphones, the number of annual comic book or sci-fi conventions and internet quality.

Happy birthday belatedly to people whom I don’t often agree with but are very good at their jobs: Brian Hughes and Mary Ellen Klas. Celebrating today is Matt Harringer, our friend Todd JoskoEd Miyagishima, and top fundraiser Ieva Smidt.

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.

Latest from Peter

Go to Top