Sunburn for 6/13 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

Today’s Rise and Shine Fact-iversary is brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the state’s dominant public affairs PR firm:

Today is “Blame Someone Else Day,” marking the first (and only) Friday the 13th of 2014. So if you’re late for work today, you have our permission to blame Sunburn.

PEW FINDS INCREASING POLARIZATION via Elizabeth Titus of POLITICO

The share of Americans with consistently liberal or conservative views is at a 20-year high. More partisans are hostile toward people in the other tent. And ideological gulfs have opened on issues like immigration, the environment and poverty. Those are among the conclusions of a report released Thursday by the vaunted Pew Research Center, based on a sweeping survey of more than 10,000 American adults this year.

It’s not that there aren’t Americans who hold a mix of conservative and liberal views, nor that half of the country does not want President Barack Obama and Republicans to strike balanced compromises in Washington, Pew reported.

It’s that the pool of those moderate Americans is shrinking. Thirty-nine percent of them now fall in the middle of the ideological spectrum, Pew found, while 12 percent fall in the ‘consistently liberal’ camp and 9 percent fall in the ‘consistently conservative’ camp.

50% OF FLORIDIANS DON’T WANT JEB TO RUN FOR PREZ, BUT FMR. GOV. LEADS FLA. PRIMARY via Public Policy Polling

There’s much speculation about whether Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio or both will seek the White House in 2016, but voters in their home state don’t want either of them to run. Public Policy Polling’s new poll finds that just 35 percent of Floridians think Bush should run for President, to 50 percent who think he should sit it out. For Rubio the numbers are even less encouraging — only 27 percent of voters in the state think he should run with 59 percent opposed to a bid.

Both Bush and Rubio trail Hillary Clinton in their home state by small margins — Bush trails by a point at 46/45 and Rubio has a 4 point deficit at 48/44. Clinton has wider leads over the rest of the Republican field- 6 points over Rand Paul at 48/42, 7 points over Mike Huckabee at 48/41, 8 points over Chris Christie at 46/38, and 11 points over Ted Cruz at 50/39.

There are mixed messages when it comes to the Republican candidate field in Florida. Jeb Bush leads the full field with 30 percent to 14 percent for Rubio, 11 percent for Paul, 9 percent for Cruz, 8 percent for Christie, 7 percent for Huckabee and Scott Walker, 2 percent for Paul Ryan, and 1 percent for Bobby Jindal.

Bush dominates among moderates and runs slightly ahead of Rubio with conservatives.

But when you ask Florida Republicans to choose just between Rubio and Bush, Rubio leads 45/41 based on his strength with voters who identify as ‘very conservative.’

In a field full of conservatives, Bush leads because of his centrist support and because Rubio is not necessarily the first choice of conservative voters. But when you narrow the choices, conservatives are much more inclined to move to Rubio.

This may presage what could happen to Bush if he runs in 2016 — he may do better in earlier primaries with a packed field than he does once people start dropping out and creating a more clear ideological contrast.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rubio will hold a media availability following his visit to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in West Palm Beach. Rubio will meet with senior hospital staff, including Chief of Staff and Medical Director, Deepak Mandi, M.D., to discuss various issues concerning veteran access to quality health care. Rubio will also visit with patients at the VAMC. West Palm Beach VA Medical Center, 7305 N. Military Trail, Riviera Beach. 2 p.m.

MAJORITY OF FLORIDIANS SUPPORT ENDING EMBARGO ON CUBA

Fifty-three percent of Floridians support ending the embargo on Cuba, with only 22 percent in support of continuing it. Independents (64/13) and Democrats (57/14) both strongly support ending the embargo and even Republicans (42/38) narrowly support ending it.

GWEN GRAHAM GOES ON TV IN TARGETED FLORIDA RACE via Abby Livingston of Roll Call

Gwen Graham will begin her television ad campaign for her bid to unseat GOP Rep. Steve Southerland in one of the Sunshine State’s most competitive House races.

The Democrat will spend $100,000 in the Tallahassee and Panama City media markets for two weeks, according to a source close to her campaign.

The ad was not immediately available.

It’s early in the cycle for a House candidate to hit the airwaves. But Graham’s move reflects her flush campaign bank account: She’s one of four House challengers who finished the last quarter with more cash on hand than the incumbent.

Florida’s 2nd District is rated Leans Republican by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

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FLORIDA FIRST LADY MORE ACTIVE IN SCOTT RE-ELECTION BID via William March of the Tampa Tribune

(T)his year, with her husband in a re-election battle perhaps as tough as his 2010 election campaign, Ann Scott has found a comfort zone in the political spotlight.

Unlike 2010, she’s making public appearances on her own, sometimes as the candidate’s wife and sometimes as first lady. She reaches out to constituencies he has challenges with, including women and mothers.

The Scott re-election team has raised her profile, scheduling her heavily with campaign events and official governor’s office events designed to get news coverage and push the campaign’s message. Those include at least three appearances in the Tampa area last week.

“I still get nervous,” she said in the interview. But, “It’s a little easier this time. I had the opportunity to kind of grow into my role as first lady. … I’ve had the opportunity to get a little comfortable with it.”

It’s a good time for Ann Scott, 62, to make that transition, because her husband could use the assist.

Folksy and unpretentious despite 42 years of marriage to a man who became a multimillionaire CEO, she helps soften and humanize his image, political experts say.

The Scott campaign “knows they need to make him more likeable. That’s what she can help do,” said University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett.

“He has been seen as sort of a robotic businessman with an empathy gap — he didn’t seem like he cared about the average Floridian. She can make him seem like someone who cares. She can reach out particularly to female voters, talking about what a good husband and father he is.”

Rick Scott noted the change in his wife’s role in comments to reporters recently when asked how his 2014 campaign differs from 2010.

“Ann’s traveling on her own more this time. That’s probably the biggest change,” he said. “She’s not traveling with me as much this time.”

CHARLIE CRIST SNAGS LGBT ENDORSEMENTS, CALLS OUT AG PAM BONDI FOR ‘WASTE’ IN DEFENDING GAY MARRIAGE BAN via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

The largest gay-rights groups in Florida and the nation endorsed Crist, a turnaround for the former Republican governor who once helped enshrine a same-sex marriage ban in the state’s constitution.

In accepting the support of Equality Florida Action PAC and the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, Crist pledged to pressure Pam Bondi to stop fighting a lawsuit seeking to overturn the same-sex marriage ban voters approved in 2008 by 62 percent.

“I think it’s important to be able to use the influence of the office of governor in a positive effective way,” Crist said, “and encourage the attorney general, number 1, to get rid of these lawsuits – I think it’s a waste of time.”

“Number 2,” Crist said, “there’s a bully pulpit that comes with the office of governor. And I think you can appeal to the people of Florida to maybe call the attorney general and ask her to get rid of these lawsuits and let individuals in the state of Florida live their lives and keep your nose out of their private life.”

The endorsements were particularly tough for Democrat Nan Rich, a former state Senate Democratic leader who fought for LGBT rights — even when Crist opposed them. Rich is trailing Crist and Scott in the polls.

Equality Florida says Crist has otherwise been a longtime LGBT-rights advocate. While governor, he dropped his support for Florida’s gay adoption ban and worked with the state Department of Children and Families to stop enforcement. During his Senate campaign, Crist supported repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and passage of a law that would prevent LGBT-related workplace discrimination.

SALACIOUS JIM GREER BOOK BLASTS CRIST, TEA PARTY via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

The Chairman: The Rise and Betrayal of Jim Greer is largely a 400-page rant by Greer, who went to prison more than a year ago after pleading guilty to stealing party money. Now at a halfway house in Orlando, he’s due to be released July 5.

The book, filled with reconstructed dialogue and triple hearsay, is Greer’s behind-the-scenes account of four years as party boss that paralleled the term of his benefactor, former Republican Gov. Crist.

“I haven’t read it,” Crist said. “But he sounds like a sad, bitter soul.”

… Greer describes their relationship as “like brothers” and for most of four years, no one spent more time at Crist’s side. Greer writes of lavish fundraising trips across the country, family outings at Disney World, evenings spent sipping wine at the Governor’s Mansion and weekends at the Fisher Island home of Crist’s wife, Carole.

To Greer, Crist was a self-absorbed and superficial politician who broke a promise to endorse Rudy Giuliani for president in 2008 and backed John McCain instead, then lost interest in being governor while seeking to be McCain’s running mate.

Greer calls Crist a rank opportunist, but as chairman he staunchly defended Crist even as his fellow Republicans gradually turned against the governor.

… The book has factual errors, misspelled names and places. Crist is said to have been “named” education commissioner in 2000, but he was elected; Delray Beach is spelled Del Ray; and Republican strategist Pat Bainter is identified as Pat Baynor.

Greer blamed his downfall on the takeover of the Republican Party by tea party members, whom he calls “crazies,” “wingnuts” and “wackadoos.” He likened them to members of the racist John Birch Society of the 1950s and ’60s, and said their constant calls for his ouster made him physically ill.

TWEET, TWEET: @gbennettpost: I’m 96 pages deep but putting down Jim Greer’s “Shakespearean” tale of sex/coke/duplicity for #Heat game.

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FEDERAL FUNDS FOR CITRUS GREENING via Associated Press

Federal agriculture officials are allocating millions of dollars toward research to solve problems caused by the devastating citrus greening bacteria.

United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told The Associated Press in a statement Thursday that $25 million in funding comes from the 2014 Farm Bill. Another $6.5 million will be sent to projects through a group formed to combat greening.

The disease affects Florida’s $9 billion citrus industry, with growers seeing problems this season. The orange crop is approaching its lowest harvest in decades. Experts blame greening.

Greening first enters the tree via the jumping plant lice know as Asian citrus psyllid. The lice suck on leaf sap and leave behind bacteria. The bacteria starve the tree of nutrients, leading to sour fruit. The tree eventually dies.

GOV. SCOTT SIGNS BILL AIMED AT HONORING VETERANS

Florida will redesign 11 military-related specialty license plates and add a new plate — the Combat Medical Badge plate — to the inventory as Gov. Scott signed a bill (HB 559) into law Thursday intended to further honor veterans. The law, which goes into effect July 1, also requires some editing of state laws, changing all references of the Korean Conflict to the Korean War and the Vietnam Era to the Vietnam War.

The changes were requested by veterans. “This legislation is one more way we thank our veterans for their service and sacrifice,” Scott said in a prepared statement. The bill will add related campaign medals or badges to the following already-existing plates: Florida National Guard; United States Armed Forces Reserve; Ex-POW; Pearl Harbor survivor; Operation Desert Storm; Operation Desert Shield; Operation Iraqi Freedom; Operation Enduring Freedom; Combat Action Badge; Vietnam War Veteran; and the renamed Korean Conflict Veteran. Currently, only the Purple Heart and Combat Infantry Badge plates are stamped with the likenesses of the related campaign medals or badges. The changes are expected to cost the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles $52,920 to do the redesigns.

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LOCKED IN LEADERSHIP FIGHT, NEGRON STILL TOP FUND-RAISER via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

Locked in a Senate leadership fight, Republican Sen. Joe Negron continues to be the leading fund-raiser among state legislative candidates, according to finance reports.

The Stuart Republican, whose district includes a portion of Palm Beach County, has collected $593,904. Sen. Jack Latvala, who is Negron’s rival for the post of Senate president in 2016, has collected $426,635, according to new filings.

Neither man raised much last month — with Negron taking in $15,150 to Latvala’s $4,575. But Negron has maintained his lead in the cash-hauling battle even after the two men have been angling for more than a year to nail down enough support to succeed incoming Senate President Andy Gardiner.

The leadership contest is basically a vote among ruling Senate Republicans, and some analysts cast the Negron and Latvala race as so close that results of this fall’s elections will likely tip the balance.

Candidate qualifying is next week. And in several Senate races, Republican primaries are expected to emerge where the Negron-Latvala race will form a backdrop — with each man steering campaign cash toward a favored contender.

Negron is looking better positioned in that role, according to new reports.

In addition to his own campaign account, Negron’s political fund-raising committee, the Treasure Coast Alliance, has raised almost $1.4 million to just over $1 million collected by Latvala’s Florida Leadership Committee, reports show.

MEANWHILE … JOSEPH BENSMIHEN ANNOUNCES A GOP CHALLENGE TO SEN. MARIA SACHS IN SD 34 Full blog post here

Joseph Bensmihen, president and CEO of Boca Home Care Services, became the latest Republican to announce a challenge to state Sen. Maria Sachs in the Democrat-leaning Florida Senate District 34.

Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News reports that days before, former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff announced she is ready for a second go against Sachs, who defeated her in 2012 in the only contest between two incumbent senators, because of redistricting.

Bensmihen, in his announcement on Thursday, focused on his experience with spastic cerebral palsy as well as his charity work.

Conservative Republican Karin Hoffman is also in the race for the Republican primary. Bogdanoff, if she wins, is largely expected to be the tiebreaker for Sen. Jack Latvala in his bid for the Senate presidency.

SCOOP – KATHY MEARS, RYAN SMITH, BRETT PRATER TO LEAD SPEAKER’S OFFICE FOR STEVE CRISAFULLI

Visitors to the Office of the Speaker of the Florida House can expect to see at least one familiar face for the next two years as Kathy Mears, current Chief of Staff to Will Weatherford, is expected to continue in that role for the chamber’s next leader, Steve Crisafulli, senior aides to the Speaker Designate confirmed to SaintPetersBlog.

Mears is considered one of the savviest operators in the Florida Capitol, a polymath who understands communications, policy and politics. She is also a tenacious defender of, if not fighter for, her principles. In addition to her service to Weatherford, Mears has served as an adviser to former Gov. Charlie Crist, as well as former Senate presidents Ken Pruitt and Tom Lee.

While Mears will lend her experience and proven leadership to Crisafulli’s operation, one of state politics’ rising stars, Ryan Smith, will serve as one of two Deputy Chief of Staff to Crisafulli.

Smith’s first political job came from Michael Ayers, who hired him as an intern at the Republican Party of Florida in 2006. From there, Chip Case hired him to run Crisafulli’s 2008 House campaign. Smith then worked as Crisafulli’s legislative assistant. Ryan worked on Will Weatherford’s 2010 campaign, as a RPOF House liaison, and currently serves as deputy director of RPOF House campaigns.

Also serving as Deputy Chief of Staff to Crisafulli is Brett Prater, formerly a staff director to Crisafulli, as well as Director of Party Development for the Florida GOP.

Although there has been some speculation that Weatherford’s communications director Ryan Duffy would play a role on Crisafulli’s team, that does not appear to be the situation at this time. Undoubtedly, the ever-capable Duffy will make a mint in the private sector.

So what does it mean that Mears will be Crisafulli’s right-hand?

First of all, it sends a clear signal that Crisafulli is prepared to continue much of the work started by Weatherford, while also carving out his own sphere of influence. Make no mistake, Crisafulli is taking over as Speaker with an ambitious agenda, but he’s also playing with house money because he wasn’t suppose to be Speaker. Expectations are low, but opportunities are readily available.

Mears’ appointment is also a push-back against some of the chatter that Speaker Designate-to-be Richard Corcoran would enjoy a “four year Speakership.” Because Crisafulli is an accidental Speaker, some have suggested that Corcoran would have the run of the place. Certainly, there is no sharper operative in the Florida House than Richard Corcoran, but there’s only ‘one Speaker at a time’ and Mears will help enforce that rule.

Speaking of speculation, we’re also hearing that Senate President Designate Andy Gardiner’s is expected to name Reynold Meyer as his Chief of Staff. He currently serves as Deputy Chief of Staff to Senate President Don Gaetz.

FIFTEEN STATE DEMOCRATS NAMED “CHAMPIONS OF FLORIDA MIDDLE CLASS” Full blog post here

Fifteen Democratic Florida legislators were named “Champions of Florida’s Middle Class” Thursday by a non-profit progressive leaning organization, identifying the state lawmakers who have proven “unwavering support of Florida’s working families.”

In a statement, Progress Florida, along with the national advocacy group America Votes, announced the list of state legislators who voted to protect and expand the middle class in Florida “100 percent of the time” during the 2014 legislative session.

To be included in the list, legislators must have voted along liberal lines on the following issues: stopping political interference in women’s health care, protecting public schools, preventing burdensome restrictions on small businesses, and protecting both Florida’s land and water.

“These fifteen lawmakers deserve Floridians’ thanks for their unwavering support and leadership on the issues that matter most to middle class families,” said Mark Ferrulo, Executive Director of Progress Florida. “Despite stacked odds, these legislators stood up at every turn to Gov. Rick Scott and his legislative allies’ corporate campaign cash driven agenda.”

WILL WEATHERFORD BRINGS BACK THE “FLORIDA HANDBOOK” Full blog post here

For the first time since 2012, state leaders, politicos and the public will have a comprehensive guidebook to the Florida political landscape.

House Speaker Will Weatherford announced the release of the 34th edition of The Florida Handbook, a guidebook to state government and history, which had been published by the House of Representatives regularly since 1947.

Although publication officially ceased in 2012, a new reference guide is available starting online and free for all users.

“The Florida House has always been the ‘chamber of ideas,’ which is why we are proud to bring back the most well-known chronicle of trends, history and facts in the Sunshine State,” Weatherford said in a statement.  “Our all-new 2014 edition of ‘The Florida Handbook’ picks up where the Morris Family left off and is available for everyone to access online.”

The Florida Handbook is a sort of political “owner’s manual” that provide users with valuable information on Florida’s politics, people and history. First started by Allen Morris, who served as the Clerk of the Florida House from 1966 to 1986, the manual became well known as the official guide to the state’s history, government and statistics. After Morris’ death in 2002, his wife Joan continued the publication.

The House is also considering a hardcover edition, which could become available after a sufficient number of preorders, and it is expected to cost around $50. A CD of the Florida Handbook is available now for $3. Requests for the CD or pre-orders of the printed version can be made by calling the Office of the Clerk.

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PRE-2010 RED LIGHT CAMERAS MUST BE REFUNDED via The Associated Press

Florida cities that installed red light cameras before the state authorized them will have to return millions of dollars in fines now that the Supreme Court has ruled they were illegal.

The court ruled Thursday that red light camera ordinances in Aventura and Orlando violated a state law that requires uniform traffic enforcement.

The decision applies only to cities that installed red light cameras before a 2010 law allowing them was enacted.

Red light cameras in Orlando and Aventura were challenged and two appeals courts had conflicting opinions.

The 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach said Orlando’s red-light camera ordinance conflicted with state traffic laws. The 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami, however, upheld red-light camera fines collected in Aventura before the new law was passed.

MORE LEGAL NOTES

FLORIDA BAR FIGHTS HIKE IN DUES FOR LEGAL AID

The Florida Bar came out forcefully Thursday against a proposal to increase attorneys’ Bar dues to help pay for legal services for the poor.

Former state Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero and attorneys for the poor were leading an effort to increase Bar dues by up to $100 a year to help fund legal-aid groups. But the Bar said in a press release Thursday that its Board of Governors voted unanimously to oppose the proposal, which is expected to be filed next week with the Supreme Court.

Bar President Eugene Pettis reiterated in the press release that funding legal-aid services will take a broader strategy than increasing attorneys’ dues. “It is laudable to see a problem and want to help, but this is a societal issue and a much larger problem than the legal profession can solve alone,” Pettis said in the press release. “It is time we bring the community together to address this problem by employing alternate forms of access, delivery and funding.”

The Board of Governors has “conceptually” approved a $6 million bridge loan to The Florida Bar Foundation, which administers legal-aid efforts, according to the press release. The board is expected to give final approval to that loan July 25. But supporters of increasing Bar dues say their proposal would help fund legal services for low-income people who face problems such as getting health benefits or preventing home foreclosures.

“This could be a major, wonderful thing that the legal profession does for the people of Florida,” Randall Berg, executive director of the Florida Justice Institute said. “We give lip services to legal services for the poor, but when we’re asked to step forward and help in any meaningful way we oppose it.”

SUPREME COURT  … REJECTS INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY CLAIM

With the execution scheduled next week, the Florida Supreme Court rejected Death Row inmate John Ruthell Henry’s eleventh-hour argument that he should be evaluated for possibly being intellectually disabled.

The argument came after the U.S. Supreme Court found recently that Florida had improperly used a “rigid” IQ score of 70 in determining whether Death Row inmates are intellectually disabled, a term that has replaced mentally retarded in recent years. The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled earlier that it is unconstitutional to execute people who are intellectually disabled. Henry’s attorney pointed to a test that showed Henry’s IQ as 78 and suggested that the IQ could be as low as 73.

But the Florida Supreme Court, in a 6-0 decision Thursday, ruled against Henry. “Beyond Henry’s assertion of a single test score, he has not alleged any deficits in adaptive functioning or onset prior to age 18,” the court opinion said. “Indeed, having examined the record in this cause, we agree with the state that not one doctor over all the years of litigation has ever opined that Henry was mentally retarded or intellectually disabled.” Justice Peggy Quince was recused from the case.

Henry is scheduled to be executed next Wednesday in the 1985 murder of his estranged wife, Suzanne Henry, in Pasco County.

… UPHOLDS ‘TIMELY JUSTICE’ LAW

Justices, in a unanimous decision, rejected arguments that the so-called “Timely Justice Act” would be an unconstitutional infringement on the court system’s authority and separation of powers and violate due-process and equal-protection rights.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Barbara Pariente emphasized that the law would not affect the Supreme Court’s “solemn responsibility” to block executions if needed to ensure that defendants’ rights have been protected.

With some convicted murderers on Death Row for 30 years or more, lawmakers in 2013 touted the proposed changes as helping more quickly carry out justice. After Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill, for example, House Criminal Justice Chair Matt Gaetz posted a Twitter message that said, “Several on death row need to start picking out their last meals.”

But the details of the law, which touched on issues such as death warrants, the clemency process and legal representation for Death Row inmates, have proved far more complex than the legislative debate. Scott also pushed back against characterizations that the law would “fast track” death-penalty cases through the court system.

SURPRISED? WITH LOBBYISTS AND POLITICIANS INVOLVED, FSU’S SEARCH TURNS POLITICAL via Gary Fineout of the Fine Print

The search for a new Florida State University president has turned into one of the prime political stories this summer in Florida that has nothing directly to do with the governor’s race.

The intrigue surrounds whether or not state Sen. John Thrasher, a former House speaker and current chairman of Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign, is going to wind up with the job. Thrasher initially had the inside track for the position after a contentious narrow vote to make him the main frontrunner. But then Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston jumped into the fray and that triggered a whole series of events leading up a decision this week to revamp the entire search process.

The idea that a Florida university would consider a politician is certainly not new. It reflects the reality that Florida’s university system is built on a financial structure that is highly dependent on the good will of the Florida Legislature and the governor. Additionally, the job of president pays relatively well, can boost one’s pension plan tremendously, and has a level of prestige and responsibility that is better than many political posts.

There’s a long line of political figures who have led universities – whether it was former Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan at Florida Atlantic University, former House Speaker T.K. Wetherell at FSU and Education Commissioner Betty Castor at the University of South Florida. And it’s true that some of those picks drew criticism over whether the candidates had the academic credentials for the post.

But the lingering question for FSU’s search is whether the entire process so far is stacked in such a way that Thrasher is inevitably the person who gets the job.

Allan Bense, the former House speaker and father-in-law of current House speaker Will Weatherford, nominated a 27-member committee (which was approved by the FSU Board of Trustees) that has four faculty members, three students and four people who work for the university. Contrast that with the University of Florida presidential search which on its 17-member panel has a majority with direct ties to the school: Three faculty members, two deans, three university vice presidents, one athletics administrator and one student.

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BILL YOUNG TO HOLD MAJOR CLEARWATER FUNDRAISER JUNE 18 Full blog post here

House District 68 Republican hopeful Bill Young II invites friends and supporters to a major fundraising reception in Clearwater next week.

The event will be Wednesday, June 18, beginning 5:30 p.m. at the Rumba Island Bar and Grill, 1800 Gulf to Bay Blvd. in Clearwater.

Bill Young, son of the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, is running against Democratic incumbent Rep. Dwight Dudley for the seat representing much of eastern Pinellas County and parts of Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg.

Hosting the event is Pinellas County restaurateur Frank Chivas, with a possible appearance by U.S. Rep. David Jolly, listed as “endorsing” Young for HD 68.

DAVID RICHARDSON, KIONNE MCGHEE DRAW GOP CHALLENGERS 

Just days before the start of qualifying, Republicans have emerged to challenge state Rep. David Richardson and Rep. Kionne McGhee. Republican Laura Rivero Levey opened a campaign account Thursday to run against Richardson in House District 113, while Miami Republican Carmen Rosa Sotomayor opened an account to challenge McGhee in District 117, according to the state Division of Elections website.

Qualifying for the November elections starts Monday and will last until next Friday.

As of May 31, Richardson had raised $137,015 and loaned $76,365 to his campaign, while McGhee had raised $41,995.

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CONTEXT FLORIDA: AMENDMENT 1, TEACHER TENURE, ERIC CANTOR AND VOTING RIGHTS

On Context FloridaAllison DeFoor is not a liberal, just a Florida Cracker, which is why she is voting for Amendment 1, the Water and Land Conservation Amendment. California Superior Judge Rolf Treu agreed with attorneys representing nine student plaintiffs who contend that it’s teacher tenure law — not student poverty, not state underfunding, not bureaucratic largesse, not any other factor — that disproportionately harms student performance in the classroom. Julie Delegal asks how can a judge leap over the process of firing teachers and decry the constitutionally enacted, collectively bargained rules that govern that process. She doesn’t think he can. According to Steve Kurlander, Tuesday’s defeat of GOP Majority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia was touted as proof of a resurgence of the Tea Party movement and evidence of unhappiness with GOP moderates who are inclined to compromise on immigration reform. The truth is that Cantor lost because he failed to get his supporters to the polls and did not cultivate support in his district. This month, Gov. Rick Scott cancelled a $10,000 per person fundraiser because the co-host was James Batmasian, a wealthy real estate developer and convicted tax-evader who could not legally vote for him. Martin Dyckman notes a serendipity in that, as one of Scott’s first acts in office three years ago was to make it much more difficult for nonviolent offenders like Batmasian to regain their civil rights.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

MORE FUN POLLING DATA via Public Policy Polling

NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE MIAMI HEAT…

The Heat are in the NBA finals right now but most of Florida doesn’t care. Thirty-one percent of voters in the state say they’re rooting for the Heat, 13 percent say they’re rooting for the Spurs, and 57 percent say they don’t care. LeBron James has a 38/14 favorability rating — it’s 28/16 with white voters and 79/6 with African Americans.

… UF, FSU MOST POPULAR …

Florida narrowly edges Florida State for college sports loyalties in the state, 22/19. Central Florida is third at 11 percent, followed by Miami at 10 percent, Florida Atlantic at 5 percent, South Florida at 4 percent, and Florida International at 2 percent. Florida coach Will Muschamp is in tepid standing with the Gator fan base — just 33 percent say they approve of the job he’s doing to 19 percent who disapprove, with a 48 percent plurality still taking a wait and see approach. His approval rating is down from 46 percent in September. Despite winning the Heisman Trophy and a national championship last fall, 72 percent of voters in the state say they have no opinion about Jameis Winston. Ten percent see him favorably and 18 percent unfavorably.

Florida’s teams continue to do pretty poorly when it comes to MLB loyalty in the state- the Braves lead with 17 percent, followed by the Marlins at 14 percent, Yankees at 11 percent, Rays at 10 percent, Red Sox at 8 percent, and Cubs at 5 percent.

… RAYS 4TH MOST POPULAR MLB TEAM IN STATE

The few fans the Marlins and Rays do have remain optimistic for the season though. Sixty-five percent of Marlins fans think the team will make the playoffs this year, 38 percent think they will make it to the World Series, and 19 percent think they’ll win it all. Despite an abysmal start to the season, Rays fans remain hopeful too — 59 percent think they’ll make the playoffs although only 20 percent think they’ll get to the World Series and just 12 percent think they’ll win it. Baseball fans are either incredibly optimistic people or lie to pollsters about their expectations- or perhaps spin is a better word than lie. Joe Maddon has a 68/6 approval rating with Rays fans, Mike Redmond is at 34/5 with Marlins fans.

WEEKEND TV

Facing Florida with Mike Vasalinda: Peter Dunbar and Screven Watson

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Adam Goodman, Mary Mulhern, Amy Hollyfield, Anthony Brunello

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Charlie Crist

Political Connections on CF 13: U.S. House District 9 candidate Peter Vivaldi

The Usual Suspects which airs on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Steve Vancore, Gary Yordon, and Ed Moore.

***CoreMessage is a full-service communications and issues advocacy firm with the experience, relationships and expertise to help you get your message out. Connected at the state capitol and throughout Florida, the CoreMessage team unites issues with advocates, messages with media and innovative solutions with traditional tactics to get results. Follow CoreMessage on Twitter and visit them on the Web at www.coremessage.com***

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Dr. Charles Crist, my friend Matt Lettelier, and one of the brightest minds in Florida politics, Rich Heffley.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.