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.
WHEN ELECTIONS OFFER FEW CHOICES via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics
Elections are supposed to be about choices, but after candidate qualifying ended last week in Florida many of the elections are already decided.
Voters in 11 districts won’t get to choose their state Senator because the incumbent faces no opposition – seven Republicans and four Democrats, if you’re keeping score. And in District 24, Pinellas County Republican incumbent Jeff Brandes faces only a write-in candidate.
The theme is the same in the state House, where 29 candidates face no opposition – 16 Republicans, 13 Democrats.
Twelve of 19 state attorney races are over before they start. Fourteen of 19 public defenders can hold victory parties. Three of the seven county commission races in Pinellas County didn’t make it to November, either.
In most, if not all, of those cases, opponents no doubt sized up the incumbent and the makeup of the district and decided it wasn’t worth the hassle of trying to raise enough money to compete.
Districts for statewide races are drawn with such eerie precision that it’s almost too easy to predict the winner before the campaign even begins. Court-ordered redistricting now in effect may change some of that, but probably not all of it. That has a major dampening effect on an underdog pondering a challenge.
Voter apathy needs to be near the top of the list, too.
While debating the difference between Hillary and Trump in a bar might get you punched in the nose, local and even statewide races don’t have the same impact. I think it’s a safe bet that many voters can’t name their state Senator or Representative, even though those elected officials have much more direct impact than someone running for president.
The major political parties in this state have become adept at speaking to themselves and rallying those few who give a hoot, but there is a great void out there waiting to be addressed that could change the way things get done.
Republicans have been much better than Democrats at working the system we have now and getting what they want. That won’t change until opponents figure out how to make people understand that the closer to home a race is, the more they need to pay attention.
FIRST ON FLORIDA POLITICS – PAT NEAL WILL NOT BE A CANDIDATE FOR CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER IN 2018 – Neal, a Manatee County developer and former Florida state senator, will not run for Chief Financial Officer in 2018. Facing a self-imposed deadline of July 1 to make a decision about a run, Neal told FloridaPolitics.com in an exclusive interview Wednesday he will not be on the ballot in two years. “I have a wonderful business and a wonderful family, and I have concluded that I cannot continue to have both if I pursue elected office,” he said.
His decision not to run means the race is wide open, with candidates on both sides of the aisle pondering whether to run for the seat. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has been mentioned as a possible CFO candidate, and Neal’s decision could make it a bit easier for him to jump in the race. The Miami Republican recently ended his U.S. Senate bid, but could be gearing up for another run at a statewide office in 2018. Others who could be considering the office may include Sens. Tom Lee and Jeff Brandes. Much like Neal, Lee’s name was floated in 2014. Also under consideration back in 2014 were Sen. Don Gaetz, former House Speaker Will Weatherford and former state Rep. Seth McKeel.
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NRA RUNNING BENGHAZI AD AGAINST HILLARY CLINTON IN FLORIDA via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Donald Trump is finally getting some air cover in Florida. The NRA is playing an anti-Clinton ad about Benghazi in the state and other battlegrounds. Featured in the spot is Mark Geist, a security contractor who fought in Benghazi. “Hillary as President? No thanks. I served in Benghazi. My friends didn’t make it. They did their part. Do yours.” The entire ad campaign is $2 million … Trump has not run a single ad yet in Florida while Clinton and her allies have spent $7.3 million already.
LAWYER SEEKS FEDERAL BRIBERY CHARGES AGAINST PAM BONDI OVER DONALD TRUMP DONATION via Gary Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – Whitfield Larrabee, a Boston trial attorney, filed complaints with U.S. Attorney’s offices in New York and Tallahassee alleging the violation of federal bribery laws stemming from Bondi’s personal solicitation of $25,000 from Trump in 2013 for her political committee. Bondi’s office was reviewing complaints against Trump University, an entity owned by Trump which offered real estate investment seminars, from attendees who said the seminars were worthless and they were bilked of thousands of dollars. After receiving the Trump donation, Bondi opted not to take action against him or Trump University or the Trump Initiative, an entity not owned by Trump but which used his name under a licensing agreement and offered similar real estate investing seminars. Larrabee said there should be enough evidence to prompt criminal charges against Bondi. “If it looks like a bribe and quacks like a bribe, I think it’s a bribe,” Larrabee said.
MARCO RUBIO LEADS CARLOS BERUFF 71% TO 7% IN NEW AIF POLL via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Rubio holds a 60-plus point lead over Carlos Beruff. That’s according to a new Associated Industries of Florida poll of likely Republican primary voters. The survey — conducted on June 27 and June 28, one week after Rubio announced he was running for re-election — found 71 percent of respondents said they would support Rubio in the primary.
ERUFF AIMS TO BAN EX-CONGRESSMEN FROM LOBBYING, BUT HIRES EX-LEGISLATOR TO LOBBY FOR HIS BUSINESS via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – “The influence of lobbyists, particularly former high ranking elected officials, is a direct cause of the growth of government,” Beruff declares on his campaign website. But the idea of hiring former legislators to lobby their former colleagues has not always been so distasteful to Beruff … In 2015, one of Beruff’s companies, Medallion Homes Gulf Coast, hired former Florida Rep. Jerry Paul as a lobbyist to represent his businesses’ interest before the Florida Legislature and the executive branch, according to Florida’s Lobbyist Registration Office. Since July 2015, Medallion has paid Paul’s lobbying firm at least $40,000 … Paul was a Florida House member from 2000 to 2004 representing mostly Charlotte County as a Republican … hiring Paul is not the same as hiring a career politician, Beruff’s campaign said. Paul was a politician for just a few years, was never a congressman, and was hired for his environmental expertise — not because of his ties to the Legislature. “Carlos is a businessman who hired an expert to navigate the expansive government bureaucracy that career politicians have let grow out of control,” said Chris Hartline, communications director for Beruff’s campaign. “One of the reasons Carlos wants to go to Washington is to reduce the size and scope of government and its impact on the ability of small businesses to grow.”
DEBUNKING THE ATTACKS ON PATRICK MURPHY’S RESUME via Amy Sherman of PolitiFact – Florida First Project used quotes by CBS4 Miami’s Jim DeFede about Murphy’s experience as a businessman and certified public accountant. Murphy “isn’t who he says he is,” says the narrator in the web ad … We found that Murphy’s description of his past employment is based on actual circumstances, but at times he omits a full explanation. The ad uses the most damning quotes by DeFede without including some of the crucial details. For years, Murphy called himself a “small-business owner,” but he was clear that it was affiliated with Coastal Construction, the firm of his father Thomas P. Murphy, Jr. Incorporation records in 2010 list Murphy being on the board of directors along with his father and Dan Whiteman, president of both firms. Whiteman told PolitiFact Florida that as vice president Murphy “managed the company’s affairs” … “Murphy says he is a CPA. Murphy has never been a licensed CPA in Florida” … This one has some nuance. Murphy started at Deloitte in Miami 2007 as an “audit assistant.” The ad omits that he did get his CPA license — but in Colorado. He could not sign off on audits in Florida since he didn’t have his Florida license, but he still was a CPA. Gary McGill, director of the Fisher School of Accounting at the University of Florida, [said] Murphy’s path — starting as an audit assistant at Deloitte, taking the CPA test multiple times and getting licensed in another state and then being promoted — would have been a common path.
POLL: CORRINE BROWN, AL LAWSON IN CD 5 DEAD HEAT via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics – A poll released by the Public Opinion Research Lab of the University of North Florida shows that Brown and Lawson are running neck and neck in Congressional District 5 … Brown leading Lawson 30 percent to 27 percent, well within the 4.9 percent margin of error. An X Factor: L.J. Holloway, who polls at 4 percent. A full 40 percent of voters are unsure. The poll separates Duval County Democrats from those west of the county line. Brown is solid in Jacksonville, but support falls off quickly west, where blue-dog Democrats are prominent and Brown’s legendary political machine never operated. In Duval, Brown leads Lawson 52 percent to 8 percent. Out west, the numbers are reversed: Lawson leads Brown 40 percent to 14 percent.
AFGE ENDORSES SUSANNAH RANDOLPH FOR CONGRESS – The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union representing 670,000 employees nationwide and overseas. Their employees include food inspectors, nurses, correctional officers, lawyers, police officers, doctors, park rangers, border patrol agents, transportation security officers, mechanics, computer programmers and more. “AFGE is proud to endorse Susannah Randolph for Congress in Florida’s 9th District. Susannah has devoted her career to public service, and has spent years working to improve the lives of Florida’s working families,” said AFGE District 5 National Vice President, Everett Kelley. “As a former government employee herself, Susannah understands the challenges facing federal workers and government employees. With Susannah Randolph in Congress, we know that we’ll have a true champion on Capitol Hill someone who will help protect workers’ rights, standup and speak out against politically motivated attacks on government employees, and oppose efforts to privatize essential government services.”
CD 18 CANDIDATE KEEPS WANTING TO BATTLE “WOMEN, MINORITIES, YOUNG PEOPLE, [AND] WELFARE PEOPLE” via Kyle Munzenrieder of the Miami New Times– Meet Mark Freeman. He’s a doctor who has decided to throw his hat into the race to represent Florida’s 18th Congressional District … He’s self-financing his campaign and is strongly conservative. He also seems to see American politics as not just a battle between ideologies, but also between different groups of Americans divided along demographic lines. In fact, he keeps rambling on about how Republicans need to put together a coalition to counter those “women and minorities, young people, [and] welfare people” … “Now we Republicans have a chance in this campaign to bring our hard-working middle class into our party,” Freeman said at a candidate forum Monday, according to the Palm Beach Post. “We know their coalition – women, minorities, young people and people on welfare. Against that we must form a counter-coalition from the anger in our hard-working middle class.” This is actually the second documented time Freeman has used a similar line in public. “We know what we’re against, the coalition on the other side — women and minorities, young people, welfare people,” he said back in April. “We need to form our own coalition, a coalition based on this anger in the middle class.”
RICK SCOTT TO ATTEND EVENT FOR CD 19 CANDIDATE FRANCIS ROONEY via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Scott will join Rooney for an event in Naples July 15. The event, which will support Rooney’s congressional campaign, is scheduled for 6 p.m. … Rooney, the former ambassador to the Holy See and a longtime Bush family supporter, is running in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. He’s vying to replace Rep. Curt Clawson, and will face Chauncey Goss and Dan Bongino in the Aug. 30 Republican primary. Scott and Rooney both live in the ritzy Port Royal neighborhood in Naples. And beyond being neighbors, Rooney and his wife, Kathleen, chaired Scott’s 2010 inaugural committee.
TWEET, TWEET: @GoMeteoric: After his own 2010 experience, Gov has never endorsed in a Republican primary. This is shockingly big deal.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Congresswoman Lois Frankel will host a sit-in to raise awareness and prompt Congress to hold a vote on common-sense gun legislation. Event begins 4:30 p.m. at the City Hall Chambers, 401 Clematis Street in West Palm Beach.
CHUCK CLEMONS PICKS UP ENDORSEMENTS FROM PAST FLORIDA HOUSE SPEAKERS via Florida Politics – Former Republican House Speakers Larry Cretul, Dean Cannon and Will Weatherford backed Clemons campaign in the Gainesville-based seat currently held by Republican Rep. Keith Perry, who is running for Senate in the newly redrawn District 8. “Chuck Clemons is a committed conservative who will be an excellent state representative,” said Cretul, who served as House Speaker at the beginning of the decade. “His outstanding track record as a public servant in a variety of capacities combined with his deep personal roots in District 21 makes him uniquely qualified to be a strong leader in Tallahassee.” Cannon and Weatherford … both praised Clemons for his leadership, with Cannon adding that Clemons “has the right experience and perspective to be a very effective member of the Florida House.” “To have the support of these great Florida leaders means the world to me,” said Clemons. “Speakers Cretul, Cannon, and Weatherford have all served our state very effectively and with great integrity. I look forward to serving the residents of District 21 with their same commitment to increasing opportunity for all Floridians.”
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POLL: VOTERS LIKELY TO OK MEDICAL MARIJUANA via Andrew O’Brien and Troy Kinsey of Orlando News 13 – Perhaps the second time will be the charm for the medical marijuana amendment in the Sunshine State: 68 percent would vote to legalize medical marijuana; 13 percent said they are uncertain if they would vote yes or no; 69 percent of likely male voters said they were certain they would vote yes; 67 percent of likely female voters said they were certain they would vote yes. The percentage of likely voters who said they are certain to vote yes on Amendment 2 has increased by about 8 percent since a previous Florida Decides poll in March of this year. In that poll, 61 percent of all likely voters said they would vote in November for Amendment 2.
ED NARAIN AND KATHY CASTOR CALL OUT DARRYL ROUSON – AGAIN via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Narain and Castor took issue with a statement that Rouson had released regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-3 ruling that overturned a Texas law restricting women’s health and reproductive rights. Rouson praised the decision, writing that, “we must continue to fight restrictions on women’s health care,” said Rouson in the statement, which Narain said was essentially hypocritical, considering Rouson’s support for pro-life bills in recent years in the Legislature. Specifically, Narain cited three specific votes on abortion in the Florida Legislature that Rouson voted on this past year, in 2015 and 2012. Narain says that Rouson voted in support of HB-1411 in the past session. That’s the bill sponsored by Lakeland Republican Kelli Stargell that prohibited state funding for routine care at abortion clinics, and placed requirements for physicians similar to a Texas law currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court … Rouson was one of only 6 House Democrats to cross party lines to vote for the measure.
MATT HUDSON CRITICIZES BARACK OBAMA IN FIRST SD 28 ADVERTISEMENT via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The 30-second spot — called “The Right Call” — was released in response to the attack on an Orlando nightclub, according to his campaign. The advertisement criticizes Obama for playing “politics with gun control … It’s shameful. Here’s my message to the president and his liberal pals: Enforce the laws we have, seal our borders, stop illegal immigration and give our military everything it needs to defeat ISIS.” Hudson, who is running for the state Senate in District 28, then goes on to say the “problem is not guns, but radical Islamic terrorism.” The advertisement marks Hudson’s first advertisement this election cycle.
JAMIE GRANT DOESN’T MISS 2014 – 15 ELECTION DRAMA via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The Hillsborough County Republican qualified for office with no opposition, meaning he’s an automatic walk-on for the 2016-18 term. But for Grant, who represents Florida House District 64, that’s far from the story two years ago. He was re-elected, then had the results thrown out after legal challenges put them into question, before finally regaining his seat. “While it’s hard to imagine a more frustrating campaign than last cycle, I’m a big believer in focusing on what you can control and ignoring the rest,” Grant [said], “the craziness of the last cycle definitely tested that” … Grant was first elected in 2010, defeating Democrat Michael Steinberg, after prevailing in a five-candidate primary race. He was re-elected in 2012 without opposition. But in 2014, the 33-year-old attorney and tech entrepreneur faced a Republican primary challenge from Steinberg’s wife, Miriam Steinberg, a Tampa engineer. With no other challenger, that would have been an open primary for all voters. Otherwise, Florida is a closed primary state, available only to party-registered voters.
HERE’S THE MOST PAINFUL CAMPAIGN MOMENT OF THE DAY IN FLORIDA via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Republican Joseph Bensmihen, who last year ran for Congress against Lois Frankel in Palm Beach County, and just moved to St. Petersburg in April, was asked by Peter Schorsch to name three members of the Pinellas County Commission. Crickets. He couldn’t name one. The audience groaned. Asked to name the most recent mayor before Rick Kriseman, he incorrectly said Rick Baker. That wasn’t the only gaffe of the day. At another point, the father of an autistic child praised the McKay scholarship for children with disabilities. “Buddy MacKay did a lot of great work,” said Democrat Eric Lynn, referring to the former lieutenant governor who has been among the fiercest critics of school vouchers. No, Eric. It is called the John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program – named after the Republican Florida Senate president in 2003 and 2004. Lynn is running against Ben Diamond for the Democratic nomination. And here’s an ironic tidbit for Florida political historians: Diamond used to work for Democratic CFO Alex Sink, who is backing him. Sink is widely credited with the not-so-smart decision during her late husband Bill McBride‘s gubernatorial campaign to push out his campaign manager, Robin Rorapaugh, right after she helped lead him to a big primary win over Janet Reno. Today, Rorapagh is working with Lynn — against Sink’s candidate.
WRITE-IN CANDIDATES ARE SHAKING UP LOCAL BALLOTS via Tom McLaughlin of NWFDailyNews.com – Christopher Schwantz didn’t hesitate when asked what made him decide to jump at the last minute into the race to replace Matt Gaetz as the District 4 state representative. “I believe in a closed primary system,” he said. With no other political party fielding candidates, that means many in Okaloosa County –– unless they register with the GOP by Aug. 1 –– will have no say in deciding who will represent them in the state House for the next four years. Schwantz said that’s the way it should be. “If Republicans have candidates they should vote for their candidates and if Democrats have candidates they should vote for their candidates,” he said. “Then let the best man win.” Schwantz, of Niceville, said he was motivated to political action because “some of the candidates” in the District 4 race “were not supporting Republicans.” His words on this issue might sound familiar to those who have been following the District 4 race. That’s because GOP candidate Jonathan Tallman has attempted to make an issue of one of his opponents cozying up to Democrats. Schwantz and Tallman are acquaintances, and Schwantz made no effort to distance himself from a $100 donation he made to the Tallman campaign in October. “I think he’s the best candidate. If it wasn’t me,” Schwantz said.
FLORIDA ZIKA VIRUS UPDATE via FloridaHealth.gov – As of Wednesday, there were five new travel-related cases with three in Miami-Dade, one in Orange and one involving a pregnant woman. There are 16 cases exhibiting symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms associated with the Zika virus last between seven to 10 days. There are now 183 total cases in Florida; by county (number of cases): Miami Dade (68), Broward (32), Orange (16), Palm Beach (12), Osceola (9), Seminole (7), Pinellas (6), Hillsborough (5), Lee (5), Alachua (4), Brevard (4), Polk (4), Collier (3), Clay (2), Duval (2), Pasco (2), St. Johns (2), Volusia (2) and a single case each in Citrus, Escambia, Highlands, Martin and Santa Rosa with 41 cases involving pregnant women.
POLL: MOST FLORIDIANS WORRIED ABOUT ZIKA via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – More than two-thirds of Floridians and of Americans generally are concerned about the mosquito-borne Zika virus … In a Saint Leo University poll of 1,001 Americans, 73 percent said they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the virus. Among 500 Floridians surveyed, 71 percent also said they were at least somewhat concerned about the virus. The concern cut across gender, religion, race, class and political lines … “There is a lot of ‘I don’t know,’ and ‘I’m not sure,’ with this virus,” said Dr. Cheryl Clauson, an assistant professor of biology at Saint Leo … Amid the uncertainty and unease is political gridlock in Congress about funding to fight the virus. Senate Democrats this week blocked a bill that included a $1.1 billion Zika funding measure, saying it was chock-full of divisive partisan provisions like restrictions on contraception funding.
WHY CONGRESS IS PROBABLY NOT APPROVING ANY ZIKA FUNDING THIS SUMMER via Amber Phillips of The Washington Post – Senate Democrats blocked a funding package that had already passed the House of Representatives, saying the bill was filled with other political goodies for Republicans that Democrats simply couldn’t support. The end result will probably be that Congress leaves town for most of July and August without approving any funding that government health officials say they badly need to keep Americans safe from the Zika virus — and, by extension, Zika could become a campaign issue this November on both sides. The Obama administration wanted $1.9 billion in new funds, and I explained why they were most definitely not going to get it … But lawmakers did find a compromise: They settled on $1.1 billion. The Senate passed a version last month, and House lawmakers passed their own version last week that was offset by some $750 million in savings — including cuts to the Affordable Care Act and yet-unused money for the now-passed Ebola scare. Depending who you’re talking to, the additions to the House bill would end up derailing the entire thing. As the funding package was passing the House of Representatives last week, Senate Democrats actually walked away from the negotiations. As is often the case in Congress, this funding bill was attached to a larger, unrelated bill — this one funding veterans and the military. And as often the case in Congress, House leaders shaped the bill so that a majority would vote for it; in a conservative House, that meant making the bill more amenable to conservatives. The end result was a proposal Democrats said was untenable.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD, AHCA LAWYERS DEBATE NEW ABORTION LAW IN FEDERAL COURT via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle heard arguments in Tallahassee … on whether to temporarily block a new Florida abortion law that will otherwise go into effect July 1. Several Planned Parenthood clinics are challenging parts of the new state law. One of the biggest problems they have with the law is that it would block state funding for any clinic that provides abortions, even funding unrelated to abortions. That defunding, said Planned Parenthood lawyer Carrie Flaxman, “threatens access to basic, non-abortion health care for thousands of woman,” noting that the clinics also provide birth control and testing for sexually transmitted diseases and cancer. Flaxman argued that it is unconstitutional to condition a government benefit, such as funding, on giving up a constitutional right, and that there is no legitimate state interest. “There is nothing rational about this defunding,” Flaxman said. That argument seems to hold sway with Hinkle, who pressed the lawyer representing the Agency for Health Care Administration on how, if the state cannot constitutionally prohibit abortion, it can deny funding to abortion providers for unrelated services, including high school dropout prevention at one clinic, because they are abortion providers. “If you can’t do it directly, you can’t defund,” Hinkle said.
FLORIDA ON PACE TO SWELL INTO A $1 TRILLION ECONOMY via Jeff Harrington of the Tampa Bay Times – In his second-quarter forecast, UCF economist Sean Snaith said the Sunshine State is enjoying both rising job growth and home construction. The mix of aging Baby Boomers and a healthier jobs market in Florida “bodes well for continued population growth via the in-migration of workers and retirees,” he said. His analysis projects Florida’s economy will expand at an average annual rate of 2.9 percent from 2016 to 2019, outpacing the national average. That means Florida’s gross state product, or economic output, would cross the $1 trillion threshold in 2018 and climb to $1.074 trillion in 2019 … that would make Florida’s economy the 16th largest in the world … Florida has enjoyed a healthy housing recovery. Median home prices have jumped from a low of $122,200 during the housing crisis to $213,000. A shrinking inventory of homes on the market is encouraging builders. But Snaith discounted fears that another housing crisis may be brewing. “While this looks like another housing bubble, it’s really just an old-fashioned shortage in the single-family market,” he said, predicting any housing shortage will correct itself as housing starts pick up in the next few years. For Tampa Bay, the buzzword is building … construction and mining will be the fastest-growing sector, with an annual average growth rate of 5.2 percent. Second would be professional and business services growing at 4.5 percent a year. He forecasts that wages will grow by 3.7 percent annually, on average.
NEW RULES, MONEY COMING TO FLORIDA’S AFFORDABLE HOUSING MARKET via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – The board of directors of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation — appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate — last week approved a series of rule changes. And this week, the FHFC announced the start of the formal public comment period for its plan to allocate about $4.1 million from the National Housing Trust Fund. Many of the rule changes are aimed at providing more transparency and accountability to the financing process. The change would require companies applying for financing to develop affordable housing to disclose three levels of ownership, and by the third level, all principals must be actual people, not a corporation. “We need to know who’s in the deal and this will allow us to do that,” Ken Reecy, FHFC’s director of multifamily programs, told board members in Tampa.
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APPOINTED: Ester “Shelly” Fano and Leonard Boord to the Miami-Dade County Expressway Authority.
NEW LOBBY REGISTRATIONS
Rivers Buford III: American Heart Association
Rebecca Roman, Adams St. Advocates: Florida Pharmacy Association; Florida Technology Council
Jenna Marie Simonetti: Enterprise Florida
TAMPA BAY TIMES MIKE VAN SICKLER NAMED GOVERNMENT & POLITICS EDITOR via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The Cleveland native has been named Government & Politics Editor, replacing Jeff Harrington, who is returning to business reporting. “I’m pretty excited about teaming up again with an incredibly talented Times/Herald staff as we enter the home stretch of the strangest political cycle in my lifetime,” he wrote to FloridaPolitics.com in an email. “Hold on to your Hat — we’re in for a wild ride.” Van Sickler has reported and edited for the Times since 2003. He became an assistant metro editor for the paper in early 2015. His reporting on the foreclosure crisis in the late aughts for the paper brought him to the attention of New Yorker reporter George Packer, who featured Van Sickler in several chapters of his 2013 book, “The Unwinding.”
WELL-DESERVED — GARY YORDON WINS NATIONAL COLUMNIST AWARD via Ashley White of the Tallahassee Democrat – Yordon won second place in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest category. “When you consider the competition features full-time columnists from newspapers all across America, as an occasional writer, I’m humbled to have stumbled my way to this honor,” Yordon said. “I’m thankful every day for the space the Tallahassee Democrat gives me to share my thoughts. It speaks volumes about how we do things in Tallahassee.” Three columns from 2015 were submitted for the contest. The submissions included Yordon’s columns about the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing gay marriage, eating Indian food before flying and writing your own obituary. “Read one sentence of Gary Yordon’s columns, most any column and you like him. A few more sentences and he’s your friend,” the judges said about the entries. “He’s funny and thoughtful and his columns are a joy. Our world seems to grow more depressing by the day. His columns make it less so. Every one of our increasingly grim publications needs a Gary Yordon to brighten the readers’ day.”
AFTER ATTACK, DISNEY WORLD REMOVES ALLIGATORS AND CROCODILES FROM SHOWS AND RIDES via Emily Cochrane of the Miami Herald – References and appearances to the predators in the parks have begun to disappear. “We continue to evaluate processes and procedures for our entire property, and, as part of this, we are reinforcing training with our cast for reporting sightings and interactions with wildlife and are expanding our communication to guests on this topic,” Walt Disney World Resort Vice President Jacquee Wahler said in a statement … Louis, the trumpet-playing alligator from the 2009 film The Princess and the Frog, was supposed to be a part of the Friendship Faire castle show at Magic Kingdom, but got pulled just days before the show premiered June 23 … The alligator was supposed to play trumpet during the show. The Tic Toc Croc from Peter Pan, known for hunting villain Captain Hook, was also removed from the Festival of Fantasy parade at Magic Kingdom … The Jungle Cruise has also changed its scripts, stopping employees from making jokes like “but remember, folks, if you don’t watch your children, the crocodiles will,” as they narrate an adventure ride through rivers across the world, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The script, known for its puns, has been in place since 1962. Guides on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom have also removed references to the predators … alligators inside Epcot’s Living with the Land attraction — both fake and real — still remain. It is unclear if other changes will be made to the park attractions over the coming weeks.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY today to Beth Babington and Kelly Mallete.