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.
THEY’RE OFF AND RUNNING
At noon this past Friday, Secretary of State Ken Detzner stood under a digital clock that marked the moment the political carriages, horses and footmen turned into pumpkins, mice and lizards.
Candidates either qualified for the 2016 ballot or they did not. They either submitted a check and their paperwork or they did not. No more hypotheticals. No more maneuvering.
At the end of the day, a fourth of the Florida Legislature was re-elected without opposition. Many more lawmakers drew only token opposition.
There were no glaring snafus. No stories about a candidate who did not qualify because their check was one cent short of the requirement or did not make the ballot because they turned their paperwork into the wrong building.
But there were some surprises, at least there were to those who don’t talk to Irv Slosberg on a regular basis.
So now that books have officially closed, here are some of the Winners and Losers from Qualifying Week.
Tampa Bay’s state Senators – Bill Galvano, Wilton Simpson, Jack Latvala, Tom Lee, and Jeff Brandes were either re-elected without opposition or face just a write-in. Look for them all to cut big checks from their committees to Dana Young‘s campaign to make sure she joins them in Tallahassee.
George Gainer – Remember when the GOP primary for SD 2 was going to settle the Latvala vs. Joe Negron rivalry for the Senate presidency? With Matt Gaetz running for Congress, that never materialized and Gainer walks into the Senate.
Kevin Rader – A month ago, Rader was on his way back to the Florida House. Today, after some maneuvering with Joe Abruzzo, he’s a near lock for a seat in the Senate.
Lauren Book – Some will say no one filed to run against Book out of deference to her all-powerful lobbyist-dad, but that narrative overlooks how hard she worked to keep anyone from running against her. The truth is the soft-spoken, golden-hearted Book may have been the most tenacious campaigner of 2016. Now she’s on her way to the Florida Senate and, eight or so years from now, who knows where next.
Perry Thurston – Very quietly, the former Democratic House leader won without opposition a seat in the upper chamber.
James Grant – After the trials and tribulations — and unending legal motions and orders — the Hillsborough Republican went through in 2014-15, it must be a relief to be re-elected without opposition to the House. Plus, he now have more free time to campaign to one day be House Speaker
Bill Hager – Silver-lining of not being appointed Insurance Commissioner is winning re-election to the House without opposition when trial attorney Gary Iscoe passed on running (we told you, Palm Beach Post!)
Florida voters – The write-in loophole that allows less-than-serious candidates to close a primary disenfranchises millions of Floridians from voting in legislative races. Both Democrats and Republicans employed the tactic, some at the last-minute, during Qualifying Week. Closing this loophole should be a top priority for next year’s Constitutional Revision Commission.
Fair Districts – So much was made of the Supreme Court’s redistricting decisions — one Miami Herald reporter suggested that the Democrats would gain six seats this November — but the reality is it’s business as usual. When you factor in the incumbents with just a NPA or write-in opponent, more than half of the Legislature will be returned without breaking a sweat. Many more of the races are competitive in name only, with a well-funded incumbent on one side and a token, partisan gadfly on the other.
Nancy Miller – We’re told the last-minute filer in SD 3 against Bill Montford is running because she did not like the conservative Democrat’s vote to remove a Confederate general from Stauary Hall.
The Legislative Black Caucus – Currently, there are six African-Americans in the Florida Senate. After November, it’s possible there may only be four. The term you are looking for is “retrogression.”
Oscar Braynon – Whether it be the Florida Democratic Party’s failure to field a candidate in competitive Senate District 24 or the roogoodoo that took place in SDs 38,39, and 40, a refrain kept being repeated throughout Tallahassee: “O.B. needs to get control of his caucus.”
Joe Redner – The strip club king files as an independent versus Dana Young after the Tampa Republican worked overtime in 2015 to shepherd legislation that helped Redner’s son’s craft brewery biz, as well as beer lovers everywhere. Stick to T&A, Joe.
Jeff Clemens – His tongue-in-cheek campaign emails, once endearing, now remind us of the taunting tweets Chris Dorworth posted before he was upset in 2012. Yes, Clemens is still likely to hold off Slosberg in a Democratic primary, but he shouldn’t even be in this position.
Irv Slosberg – Why there is not yet a Twitter handle @IrvSlosbergsStupidHat is beyond me?
Fred Costello – First Marco Rubio decides to run for re-election, then Ron DeSantis drops back to run for CD 6. Costello was suppose to drop his challenge but the poor guy just doesn’t seem to know when to get in line.
Political consultants everywhere – Rubio’s reconsideration wiped out three U.S. Senate campaigns, along with the hopes and dreams of several other pols. Of course, those hopes and dreams would have cost money, but alas they are no more.
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DAYS UNTIL: Domestic vote by mail go out in primaries – 28; Early voting begins in primaries – 53; Primary elections – 63; Start of the NFL season — 72; vote by mail sent in Gen. Election – 98; Early voting begins in Gen. Election — 123; Election Day – 133
CHOOSE YOUR NEWS…
HILLARY CLINTON OPENS 12 POINT LEAD ON DONALD TRUMP AS TWO-THIRDS SEE HIM AS BIASED via Gary Langer of ABC News – Clinton surged to a broad advantage against Trump [51-39] in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, capitalizing on Trump’s recent campaign missteps. Two-thirds of Americans see him as biased against groups such as women, minorities or Muslims, and a new high, 64 percent, call Trump unqualified to serve as president. … [A 14-point swing among registered voters since mid-May] snaps the race essentially back to where it was in March.
CLINTON HOLDS JUST A 5 POINT LEAD OVER TRUMP, LATEST POLL FINDS via Peter Nicholas of the Wall Street Journal – After a tumultuous few weeks in the presidential campaign, Democrat Clinton’s lead over Republican rival Trump stands at five percentage points, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, but the race is essentially tied when third-party candidates are included. “Trump has had the worst month one can imagine, but Clinton’s negatives are so high the net impact on the ballot is almost invisible,” said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who conducted the survey with Democratic pollster Fred Yang.
HERE’S HILLARY CLINTON’S NEWEST TV SPOT IN FLORIDA via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Clinton‘s campaign begins airing a new TV ad in Florida and seven other states that features a family that benefited from the Children’s Health Insurance Program that Clinton helped enact. “When Hillary Clinton was first lady she was instrumental in passing the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and because she did, Kayla and millions of other kids have coverage,” says Amanda Strine, whose daughter Kayla was diagnosed with chronic illnesses at age nine. “That’s what Hillary Clinton did, and that tells you a lot about the kind of president she’ll be.”
MARCO RUBIO’S BOOK ROYALTIES UP $70 K IN 2015 via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The Miami Republican claimed $102,500 in royalties last year, up from the $30,000 he claimed on his 2014 report, according to financial disclosure forms filed with the Senate. Overall, Rubio has made $1.2 million in book royalties since 2012. The biggest chunk came that year when he reported $800,000. In 2013, he claimed $345,000 in royalties. Rubio has written two books … His 2012 book deal for “An American Son” gives him 15 percent royalty payments for hardcover sales, 7.5 to 10 percent on paperback editions and 25 percent for audio books. A 2013 book deal for “American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone” offers between 12.5 and 15 percent for hardcover, 7.5 to 10 percent for paperback and 10 to 25 percent for audio books. In 2015, Rubio also collected his $174,000 Senate salary and $9,016 from Florida International University. He serves as a senior fellow at the schools.
RUBIO: NOT GOING TO BE TRUMP’S VP via Elena Schneider of POLITICO – Rubio rejected the possibility of running as Donald Trump’s vice presidential nominee Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” saying it’s “not a viable option.” “Yeah, well, it’s too late for that. I’m running for the United States Senate from Florida. And you can’t run for two offices at once, so,” Rubio said. “The differences in policies that me and Donald have had are too big for something like that to work. It would be a distraction, quite frankly, to his campaign.”
OUCH — THE OVERHYPING OF UNDERWHELMING PATRICK MURPHY via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – The pattern with the 33-year-old congressman from Palm Beach County: He appeared to be a serial exaggerator of his accomplishments, from inflating the scope of his work on Gulf cleanup after the BP oil spill, to falsely claiming to have earned dual college degrees, to overstating his work as a CPA. This week a Miami TV station aired a two-part investigative series that portrayed Murphy as an unaccomplished, chronic embellisher. Murphy’s campaign has attacked the report as unfair and inaccurate. He was a CPA, even if he was never licensed by Florida or worked as long as he seemed to imply. And he did have a small business, even if his wealthy father may have bought it for him and it didn’t actually do much cleanup work. But what’s already certain is that the Democratic party establishment prematurely planned a coronation for a candidate about to mauled and carved up by Republicans … Murphy is telegenic, moderate, and as a congressman largely uncontroversial. Mainly, though, what has set him apart and drew the enthusiasm of the likes of Harry Reid is money. Murphy’s father in the construction business has been willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to help get him elected, so the party establishment saw little reason to dig below the surface of Murphy’s image. Given the way Murphy has withered under scrutiny in recent weeks, we’re wondering if most of the drama will be in the primary and not the general. Rubio may face more difficulty winning the nomination against businessman Carlos Beruff than beating either Grayson, notoriously obnoxious and mired in pending ethics probes – or Murphy, who increasingly looks like an emperor with no clothes.
— “Patrick Murphy had a terrible week. Call it the Worst Week in Washington” via Chris Cillizza of The Fix
CARLOS LOPEZ CANTERA BIDS SENATE CAMPAIGN FAREWELL WITH CALL TO SUPPORTERS via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Lopez-Cantera said goodbye to his U.S. Senate campaign with a call to supporters in which he thanked them and promised to be “fully behind” Rubio‘s re-election bid … “I’m going to do what I can to help Marco” … That’s in contrast to Rick Scott, who is sitting out the Republican primary between Rubio and Manatee County developer Carlos Beruff. Lopez-Cantera … got in a jab at Beruff, noting he didn’t show up to the last grassroots event Lopez-Cantera attended recently in Venice, near Sarasota. This will be the first election since 2006 in which Lopez-Cantera, a former state representative and Miami-Dade County property appraiser, isn’t on a ballot.
WALT DARTLAND ENTERS CD 2 RACE via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat – A grass-roots push by Leon County Democrats has produced a candidate for the 2nd Congressional District seat. Former Deputy Attorney General Dartland qualified for the race to succeed Rep. Gwen Graham … Dartland had urged local Democrats to field a candidate once state Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda signaled she wouldn’t run for the seat … Dartland met with Panama City attorney Alvin Peters in a Marianna coffee shop to discuss the race. Peters, who had finished third in the 2012 primary, pointed out there are more Leon County Democrats in the district, 39,428, than there are in Bay County, 30,829. The day after the meeting, Dartland decided to enter the race. “I’m the last man standing,” he quipped.
— “Motherhood comes first: Julia Fletcher suspends CD 4 campaign” via Florida Politics
DESPITE INTRIGUE, KAREN BROWN, AL LAWSON ARE ONLY PROMINENT DEMOCRATS IN CD 5 RACE via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Brown and former state Sen. Lawson will face off in the Democratic primary for the 5th Congressional District, a seat that has been the subject of huge doses of speculation and intrigue after a redistricting legal challenge. Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat, filed to run for the seat in February, so his challenge to Brown is no surprise. But there have been persistent rumors that other candidates would pile into the race for a seat that was redrawn to stretch from Jacksonville to the Tallahassee region. From a population perspective, Jacksonville, Brown’s base, has the advantage. Duval County has 403,066 residents in the district, which Leon County, Lawson’s home county, has just under 160,000. Lawson has just $22,004 cash on hand and more than $30,000 in debt tied to a loan he gave his campaign. Brown has just over $70,000 cash on hand with $20,475 in campaign debt. The seat is heavily Democratic, so the winner of the primary is all but certainly going to win the general election. The lone Republican to qualify was Glo Smith, whose campaign has no cash on hand.
— “CD 10 primary with four Democrats; Thuy Lowe wins GOP nod” via Florida Politics
SPOTTED on page 12 of Friday’s New York Times:
HOUSE ETHICS PANEL FINDS NO WRONGDOING BY VERN BUCHANAN via Matthew Daly of The Associated Press – The House Ethics Committee Friday ended a four-year probe into Republican Rep. Buchanan, finding no evidence that the lawmaker violated House rules. The ethics panel said in a report that there is not enough evidence to conclude that Buchanan himself was aware of unlawful payments made by companies affiliated with him to reimburse campaign contributors. Still, the committee cautioned Buchanan to “exercise more diligence over affairs related to his campaign.” Buchanan had been under scrutiny for several years after a former business partner alleged that Buchanan used straw donors to funnel thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to his campaigns via employees at two car dealerships Buchanan owned. Buchanan denied the allegations by Sam Kazran, as well as Kazran’s claim that Buchanan pressured him into signing a false affidavit regarding illegal campaign contributions. The ethics panel said in its report that there was insufficient evidence “to show precisely what role … if any” Buchanan had in drafting an affidavit used in the FEC proceeding.
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NO CONTEST: FOURTH OF LEGISLATURE ELECTED WITHOUT OPPOSITION via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – More candidates are running for the Florida Legislature than in past cycles, but one of every four seats was decided with no opposition. The lucky lawmakers are 12 senators (eight Republicans and four Democrats) and 30 state representatives (16Rs and 14Ds). Their campaigns are over and they must stop fundraising, but they can and will help other candidates while deciding what to do with their leftover campaign money. Five legislators running for the first time in open seats won without opposition — a rare feat. Technically senators-elect until they are sworn in in November, they are George Gainer; Lauren Book; and Perry Thurston. Other senators elected unopposed are Republicans Aaron Bean, Rob Bradley, David Simmons, Wilton Simpson, Tom Lee, Bill Galvano and Denise Grimsley and Democrats Audrey Gibson and Oscar Braynon. Three House freshmen, all Republicans, got free rides. They are Reps.-elect Don Hahnfeldt; Ralph Massullo; and Michael Grant. (Thurston and Grant are former House members). The other House members elected unopposed are Republicans Halsey Beshears, Cyndi Stevenson, Larry Metz, Richard Corcoran, Danny Burgess, Eric Eisnaugle, Cary Pigman, Jake Raburn, James Grant, Jim Boyd, Dane Eagle, Heather Fitzenhagen and Bill Hager, along with Democrats Clovis Watson Jr., Janet Cruz, Joe Abruzzo, Larry Lee, Bobby DuBose, Kristin Jacobs, Jared Moskowitz, Katie Edwards, Evan Jenne, Joe Geller, Shevrin Jones, Sharon Pritchett, Cynthia Stafford and Kionne McGhee. If you think this is a bad trend, consider this: Two years ago, 38 House members were elected unopposed.
GEORGE GAINER BECOMES INSTANT WINNER IN SD 2 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – “I am humbled and honored to have been elected without drawing another candidate to run against me,” Gainer said in a statement. “From the first day I announced my candidacy, I have worked to visit with as many voters as possible throughout the district. They have my pledge that my door is always open to them and I will do my absolute best to serve them with honor in Tallahassee.” The Senate District 2 race was expected to be one of the most expensive and hotly contested races this election cycle. Gainer was set to face Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican and the son of former Senate President Don Gaetz. At the time, the race had high stakes — Gainer was backed by Sen. Jack Latvala, who was locked in a battle for the Senate presidency with Sen. Joe Negron, of whom the elder Gaetz is an ally. But those stakes dropped significantly when the presidency was decided in Negron’s favor late last year.
IRV SLOSBERG JUMPS INTO STATE SENATE PRIMARY RACE AGAINST JEFF CLEMENS via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – Slosberg left a race for an open state Senate seat, one that included much of his current state House district in Boca Raton, to run against sitting state Sen. Clemens … in a district where Slosberg does not live. State law requires legislators to live in the district they represent. “I’m not surprised at all,” Clemens said … “I’ve been hearing for weeks that Republicans were trying to find a Democrat to run against me, and it appears they finally found their man.” Slosberg says Clemens is wrong about Republicans being behind his run. “It’s all bubbe-meisses,” Slosberg said, using a Yiddish term for old wives’ tales. “I had a choice, am I gonna go for where I live or where my constituents live? And my constituents are mostly in [Senate District 31, where Clemens is also running]. My office is in the middle of District 31.”
TOM LEE, BILL GALVANO TO REMAIN POWERFUL GOP VOICES IN SENATE via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics – Galvano and Lee were the only candidates to meet Friday’s noon filing deadline and thus have been assured of returning to Tallahassee. Lee’s political future had seemed uncertain after court-ordered redistricting could have placed both him and Galvano in the newly drawn District 21, which covers parts of Hillsborough and Manatee counties. Lee’s political future had seemed uncertain after court-ordered redistricting could have placed both him and Galvano in the newly drawn District 21, which covers parts of Hillsborough and Manatee counties. Lee declined to run against Galvano, and after considering a run for the Hillsborough County Commission opted instead to move within the boundaries of the new District 20. The move keeps two powerful GOP voices in Tallahassee. Galvano is in line to become Senate President in 2019, provided Republicans keep their majority in that body. Lee served as the chair of the appropriations committee in the last session.
RICHARD CORCORAN GETS NO OPPOSITION via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, was the only person to qualify for his House seat … Corcoran, who represents District 37, is slated to be the Speaker for the 2017 and 2018 Legislative Sessions … That assumes the GOP maintains its controlling majority in the 120-member House after the 2016 election. It is expected to, currently holding an 81-39 edge. Jose Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican who represents District 110, will follow Corcoran as speaker for 2019 and 2020. He drew an opponent today, Democrat Carlos Puentes Sr. of Hialeah … Chris Sprowls, a third state representative slated for the speakership after Oliva, will face opposition as well. Bernie Fensterwald qualified as a Democrat, records show, and will face the GOP incumbent Sprowls in the November general election for that District 65 seat in Pinellas County.
EMBATTLED REGGIE FULLWOOD EXPLAINS WHY HE DECIDED TO RUN FOR RE-ELECTION via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – “The last two years have been very challenging for me to say the least,” Fullwood said in a statement … “However, those challenges pale in comparison to my commitment to continuing my work on behalf of the communities I serve.” After the federal government announced the indictment in April, Fullwood and his lawyers said that he expected to be cleared of the most serious accusations. However, similar controversies have derailed the political career of others even without a conviction. Fullwood told FloridaPolitics.com shortly after the charges were filed that he would run for re-election, but his campaign account remained inactive and Fullwood has not reported any fundraising activity. However, he made good on his word when he paid the qualifying fee to appear on the ballot in the August primary. “For the past six years I have had the opportunity to help fund mentoring programs, deliver additional education funds and resources to our local schools and fought for early learning initiatives like VPK. As the work continues, I want to be there to ensure that we do not lose the momentum we’ve gained.”
MIKE REEDY DROPS OUT OF HD 63 RACE, MEANING LISA MONTELIONE WINS DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – “I wanted to personally let you know that today I have decided to end my campaign for State House,” said Reedy, an organizer with Equality Florida, stated in a message to supporters. “When I began this campaign it was because I felt Tampa deserved an advocate in Tallahassee — someone who would fight for innovative job creation, smart budgeting and fair taxes; lead initiatives to make college more affordable, and see to it that working and middle-class families like my own are heard in Tallahassee.” Reedy is endorsing Montelione and vows to run in the future. “For now, I will continue to serve our community through the boards that I serve, volunteerism and advocacy. This may have been my first race, but it certainly will not be my last.”
WITH NO OPPOSITION, DANE EAGLE WINS RE-ELECTION IN HD 77 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The 33-year-old Cape Coral Republican was first elected to the Florida House in 2012. Despite running unopposed, Eagle built up a substantial war chest in preparation for the election. State records show he raised $113,461 and had nearly $38,000 cash on hand at the end of May. The 2016 election cycle marks the first time Eagle has run unopposed. Eagle wasn’t the only Southwest Florida lawmaker re-elected … State records show Heather Fitzenhagen also appeared to win another term when no other candidate qualified for the House District 78 race.
DAVID RIVERA, MILLIONAIRE? SO SAYS HIS LATEST FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – In the three years since Rivera left Congress — unceremoniously, after a single term and under the cloud of a federal criminal investigation — he’s managed to significantly grow his personal wealth, even as what he does for a living has remained a mystery. He’s worth more than $1.5 million, according to a financial disclosure form he filed this week to qualify as a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. The last time he publicly declared his finances, in a 2012 congressional form that didn’t require a net-worth estimate, he listed just two assets — neither of which suggested he had the makings of a millionaire. Most of Rivera’s newfound wealth lies outside the U.S., in a pair of overseas bank accounts in Mexico and Taiwan each worth more than $300,000, his disclosure shows. He also owns three properties in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula worth $250,000, $100,000 and $50,000, respectively. How Rivera acquired the money and the properties is unknown. For years, Rivera has claimed to be a business development consultant, an amorphous profession with unidentified clients. The only income source listed in his latest disclosure, for calendar year 2015, is $104,000. The money came from Xemma Holdings S.A. de C.V., a company in Merida, Mexico, “in partnership” with Interamerican Consulting, Rivera’s corporate entity registered at his Doral home.
NANCY DETERT TO BECOME COUNTY COMMISSIONER via Zach Murdoch of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – The longtime state legislator won election to the Sarasota County Commission District 3 seat without opposition at the close of candidate qualifying … setting Detert up for a return to the local stage where her political career began on the Sarasota County School Board in 1988. “This is such a great community,” Detert said … “I’ve loved it for so long and I think I have the experience to help make this community better.” Detert will join the commission in November, replacing Christine Robinson, who leaves the board after almost two full terms. Detert considers the position a capstone to nearly three decades in public service. But the homework to prepare for the new job has already begun — mostly through tuning into current meetings and rewatching previous commission and county planning board gatherings to get up to speed. That effort is quickly highlighting what is likely to be the biggest adjustment between state and county government. “Sometimes it seems as if we’re handcuffed by my own bureaucracy, and I’m used to moving a little quicker than that,” Detert said.
MORE NOTES FROM THE END OF QUALIFYING all via Florida Politics (which published more than 60 non-paywalled, qualifying-related stories on Friday)
SHAWN HARRISON SCORES SECOND ‘SEISMIC’ ENDORSEMENT FROM BRIAN LAMB via Tom Jackson of Florida Politics – Lamb, Fifth Third regional bank president, head of the University of South Florida Board of Trustees, immediate past president of the Tampa Bay Partnership and, not insignificantly, a Democrat, is supporting the New Tampa Republican’s re-election to the Florida House of Representatives. Lamb became the second prominent black Democrat in recent days to declare his support for Harrison, joining Tampa City Councilman Frank Reddick. Lamb, a point guard on some very good Bulls basketball teams from 1994-98, buttonholed Harrison at a recent awards ceremony for USF alumni, telling his longtime friend, “Whatever I can do, Shawn.” If Reddick’s endorsement was “seismic” — the incumbent’s term — Harrison is counting on Lamb’s voluntary aftershock to help him with the largest employer in District 63, a notoriously swingy puzzle piece stretching from Pebble Creek and across New Tampa to Lake Madeline and Carrollwood. “I think [Lamb] will signal that USF is behind me,” Harrison said. “That’s a powerful thing, to have the leadership of the university on your side.”
AFTER 20 YEARS, MITCH CAESAR WON’T SEEK SIXTH TERM AS BROWARD DEMOCRATIC CHAIRMAN via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – Ceasar first became party chairman in December 1996, and he’s been re-elected every four years – often by mustering the political skills honed by years of party politics to defeat a challenger. By January, he hopes he’ll have a completely new job as Broward County’s elected clerk of the circuit court. He’s one of several candidates in the August primary; the county is so Democratic that the primary winner is virtually guaranteed to become the next court clerk. Because he’s running, Ceasar has already taken a major step away from the party. He put himself on leave as county chairman in August to focus on his campaign, though he’s still a Florida member of the Democratic National Committee. After the primary, he plans to reclaim the keys to the party office for a final three months – and final presidential election. “I’ve decided, because the job I’m running for requires serious attention, that I am not going to run for chairman of the party again. I plan to still be active in the Democratic Party [but] it’s time to pass the political baton to other folks.”
SPOTTED: Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum in the New York Times’ story, “14 Young Democrats to Watch“
REGINALD GAFFNEY: A STORY OF MACHINE POLITICS, MONEY AND CORRINE BROWN via Christopher Hong, Steve Patterson and Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union – These days, a year into a tumultuous first term as a Jacksonville city councilman, the heaviest cloud over Gaffney seems to concern his yearslong ties to U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, once an ally and patron saint of sorts for Gaffney’s nonprofit, the Community Rehabilitation Center Inc. The nonprofit was subpoenaed in February to hand over financial information in connection with a federal criminal investigation of Brown. It was another shoe to drop after what had already been a punishing first year in office that included being sued by a taxpayer group over Sunshine Law violations; almost $12,000 in costs for an illegal tax break on a second home; and public shaming for accepting Jaguars game passes to owner Shad Khan’s suite while Khan sought city help upgrading EverBank Field. Reflecting on the turmoil surrounding him, Gaffney echoes the Old Testament, reprising a fundamental question raised in the Book of Job: Why do the righteous suffer? “Why, God? Why me?” Gaffney asked during an interview. “I’ve never stolen anything from nobody. All I try to do is help folks.” But peeling back the layers on the murkier business side of Community Rehabilitation Center … shows Gaffney’s concerns could go beyond his connections with Brown or unflattering headlines.
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THE WORST THING YOU’LL READ TODAY — THE OMINOUS SIGNS BEFORE 2 KIDS WERE SMOTHERED via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald – Anthony Singleton couldn’t find his baby. The infant’s mother had fled their home in Philadelphia — amid ongoing supervision by child welfare authorities, and a bout with severe depression — and Singleton was searching for her frantically … Days later, the police called him. Both Arieland St. Leo were dead, and their mother had been charged in Broward County with deliberately killing them … Pieces of Ariel and St. Leo Hines’ final days, and their mother’s flight from the Philadelphia child protection system, can be cobbled together from a series of records the Miami Herald obtained from the Department of Children & Families … On June 6, while she was staying at a cousin’s apartment in Miramar, Sophia Hines took a bedsheet and held it over St. Leo’s mouth “until [he] was no longer breathing,” a police report says. Hines “then admitted to holding the same sheet over the mouth of [Ariel] until she was no longer breathing.” Hines, 40, “gave no explanation for her actions,” a report says. She was charged with two counts of premeditated murder … though the records bring the family into will will I sharper focus, much of the narrative still remains hidden. Though Florida abuse investigators have asked their Philadelphia counterparts at least twice for documents pertaining to Ariel and St. Leo, records show, only one short document from Philadelphia is contained in the package … suggesting that city has yet to fully comply with Florida’s request … Hines had taken Ariel to a host of doctors, suggesting she had been physically abused or molested, but none of the allegations proved to be founded. First she said Singleton had molested the girl. Later, she accused workers at a nursery of abusing her. One problem, the reports say, was that Ariel was too young to talk about what, if anything, had happened to her. The infant’s birth appears to have been a tipping point: In 2015, after St. Leo was born, Hines developed severe post-partum depression. Hines’ friend told investigators she “had a psychiatric breakdown, and was institutionalized at [Philadelphia’s] Einstein Hospital.”
TWEET, TWEET: Big test of @legacy gets underway this week. $5.4b expansion of Panama Canal could reshape trade routes. .@ championed spending tens of millions to help Fla. ports w prospect of increased trade via Panama Will it succeed?
BACKGROUND — “$5.4 billion expansion of Panama Canal could reshape world trade routes” via the Los Angeles Times
CUTS IN ENTERPRISE FLORIDA INCENTIVES SPARK CONCERNS via Dave Berman of FLORIDA TODAY – The incentive — known as the Quick Action Closing Fund — provided Gov. Scott with flexibility to offer cash to companies looking to expand in Florida, and was considered a handy tool in the state’s economic development toolbox for competitive projects. But it was controversial, as were some of the operations of the state’s main economic development organization, Enterprise Florida Inc. Scott sought $250 million for the fund for the fiscal year that begins July 1. But the Florida Legislature decided not to set aside any money. And the fallout from that decision was a major topic of discussion at recent meetings of the Enterprise Florida board of directors and the Ad Valorem Tax Abatement Council of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast. Greg Weiner, the Economic Development Commission’s senior director of business development, says he is worried about the lack of money for the Quick Action Closing Fund program. “There have been some major changes — not good ones, actually — at the state level,” Weiner said at a recent meeting of the advisory Ad Valorem Tax Abatement Council. Weiner said he is concerned about Florida in general and the Space Coast in particular losing potential corporate expansions to other states.
ALL’S FAIR? SCOTT LINK CHANGES SIDES AFTER $5 M CITIZENS SUPERLAWYER PAY via Charles Elmore of the Palm Beach Post – A West Palm Beach lawyer whose firm collected about $5 million in a controversial role as “coach in the press box” for other attorneys at Citizens Property Insurance Corp. has stopped doing that job at least a year ahead of a maximum contract term — and now he’s switching sides. Link has touted his experience as coordinating counsel for the state-run company in a PR release announcing he is ready to represent policyholders against insurance companies. “We are extraordinarily disappointed that Scott has taken that position,” Citizens CEO Barry Gilway [said]. “It’s ridiculous,” said state Rep. Frank Artiles … a public adjuster who tried in vain to persuade Citizens board members to vote against a contract with the West Palm Beach law firm. “Now he’s soliciting clients with the free education he got.” Artiles called it an “inside job” in the first place for Citizens to pay millions to a law firm with no prior experience in property insurance — noting the firm did not disclose in its application past compensation it paid an interim Citizens president who was still in office when initial bids went out.
TAMPA FIRM WINS LOTTERY ADVERTISING CONTRACT via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The Florida Lottery has awarded a lucrative advertising contract to PP+K, a Tampa-based advertising agency. The award, potentially worth tens of millions of dollars … is for “General Marketing Advertising and Related Commodities & Services” … The last time the contract was up it sparked a bid protest after the department awarded a $100 million contract, which included money for ad placements, to St. John & Partners.
GOV. SPURNS CHARLES MCBURNEY IN APPOINTING ROBERT DEES TO JACKSONVILLE JUDGESHIP via Larry Hannan of the Florida Times-Union – Dees is newest circuit judge in the 4th Judicial Circuit, beating out a local state representative who incurred the wrath of the National Rifle Association..Dees, 53, has been in private practice as a partner with Milam, Howard, Nicandri, Dees & Gillam, P.A. since 2002. He is probably best known locally for being the attorney for citizen activist Curtis Lee. Dees was appointed to the position by Rick Scott … [replacing] Harvey Jay, who was recently appointed to the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee by Scott. In appointing Dees, Scott spurned state Rep. McBurney, another finalist for the position. McBurney drew the wrath of the National Rifle Association, and the powerful gun lobby urged Scott to appoint someone else on the list of finalists submitted to him by the local judicial nominating commission. Thousands of people emailed or wrote Scott opposing McBurney. McBurney drew the fire of Second Amendment advocates because his committee did not move forward this year with a measure tied to the state’s “stand your ground” self-defense law. The NRA wanted the law amended to state that prosecutors had the burden of proof in showing that Stand Your Ground arguments were not valid.
APPOINTED: Robert Long, Jr. to the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court.
APPOINTED: Robert Dees to the 4th Judicial Circuit Court.
APPOINTED: Gary Sanders to the 5th Judicial Circuit Court.
APPOINTED: Michael McDaniel to the 10th Judicial Circuit Court.
APPOINTED: Judge Don Thomas Hall to the 12th Judicial Circuit Court.
APPOINTED: Zachary Gill to the Lee County Court.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to the great Ann Herberger, as well as Lydia Claire Brooks and Eric Carr. Celebrating today is one of the best men I’ve ever met, Rick Baker, as well as my bannerman Tony DeSisto, Tara Laxer, and Simone Marstiller.