Sunburn for 6/17 – 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 the 20th anniversary of OJ Simpson’s infamous white Bronco slow-speed freeway chase. Where were you when this drama played out live on national television?


What would be the ideal domain name for a website about Florida politics?, right?

But that’s such an obvious choice — such a perfect choice — that that domain was likely scooped up 10 years ago and has been squatted on ever since.

Well, even squatters have to stretch their legs, or more to the point, pay their rent. So, this past weekend, I was offered the opportunity to purchase!

Actually, the owner of the domain had put it up for auction on eBay. But I reached out to him directly and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. He accepted and transferred the domain to me Saturday.

So today, the future is very bright as I now own the best domain name in Florida politics, namely,

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. This is the chance for a major re-branding and re-launch of our work so that we can offer what no one else has been able to do: a genuinely statewide political news website, updated in real-time. In other words, a POLITICO for Florida.

There are a lot of questions to answer (what to do with SaintPetersBlog, whom to hire, advertising rates, etc.) and there is a lot of work to do, but the goal is to launch after the 2014 elections in order to be positioned for the 2016 presidential race and the 2018 statewide elections.

I am also open to offering some very limited investment opportunities. From advertising on SaintPetersBlog, Context Florida, and Sunburn, we have the revenue flow to build this next project, but one or two angel investors could make it even easier. Email me with serious inquiries.

We have the content, we have the writers, we have the track record, we have the strategic positioning, and we have the know-how. Like Brad Pitt and Ed Norton in Fight Club, we just needed to give it a name. Now we have the perfect, perfect, perfect brand for a website about Florida politics.

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The restless president, who has compared himself to a caged animal on recent wanderings by declaring the “bear is loose,” took a long Father’s Day weekend away with his wife and older daughter. … “I think frankly we’ve all been through a cold and bitter winter and the bear has cabin fever,” said … Valerie Jarrett. “His cabin is a little bit bigger and harder to escape than most.” … Obama has worked out mornings at a gym near the Rancho Mirage home where the first family is staying with White House decorator Michael Smith and his partner, James Costos, the American ambassador to Spain.

The hilltop home has sweeping views, a private tennis court and trapezoid swimming pool. Despite temperatures above 100 degrees, Obama [golfed] at two nearby courses — Saturday at the Sunnylands estate and Sunday at the Porcupine Creek Estate owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison. … “Sometimes when all of the brown stuff is hitting the rotating blades, a vacation is not the best thing to go on,” said Dana Perino, who was President George W. Bush’s press secretary. .. “There were times the president wanted to go on a bike ride … but I’d have to say, ‘Mr. President, there was a bombing in Iraq,’ or ‘The markets are tanking.'”

Obama has taken three weekends away in a golf-friendly place this year … The Obama family also is planning a … vacation to Martha’s Vineyard for two weeks in August … Obama has golfed every weekend since Washington’s weather got clear enough to allow it in April, save a week when he was in Asia. Those close to Obama say his frequent golf outings are less about a love of the game than a desire to take a long walk outside. Obama also has been seen walking the darkened White House grounds, late into the evening, sometime with one of his dogs.

Last week Obama … walk[ed] … 350 yards … to Starbucks. He told reporters who rushed to catch up with him to give him some space. The next day … he took Education Secretary Arne Duncan out for a burger. He … stopped by a Little League game and walked to an event at the Interior Department, … shaking hands with surprised tourists along the way. “I might walk up to the Lincoln Memorial, sit on there,” Obama said when asked on … ”Live with Kelly and Michael” … what he would choose if he could do anything unrecognized.


Six years in, Obama is still battling a Bush hangover.

The rising chaos in Iraq — and the blame game over who’s responsible — are the latest reminders that halfway through his own second term, he’s still often more consumed by dealing with the legacy of President George W. Bush than building his own.

Obama supporters see a president who found himself so deep in so many holes from his very first day in office that cleaning up the aftermath of the previous eight years was going to take at least eight of his own: getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan, stabilizing the housing market and repairing the larger economic collapse, all while chopping a $1.2 trillion deficit in half.

To detractors, particularly those with allegiances to Bush, that argument comes off as another excuse for a president who’s been unable to deliver much — a man they see as so driven to be different from his predecessor that he’s often blundered into catastrophe.

To them, the 2011 withdrawal from Iraq — on what they say was a politically driven timetable, not a strategic one — was the latest clear case in point.

But the ripples from the Bush years go well beyond the Islamic militants marching toward Baghdad, larger foreign policy and the economy. There’s the detention facility in Guantánamo Bay that Obama’s 5½ years late in his promise to close. There’s the National Security Agency surveillance apparatus he inherited (and bulked up significantly).

And with 2½ years left, that shows little sign of changing.


The Senate playing field remains fairly broad. There are 10 races where we give each party at least a 20 percent chance of winning, so there is a fairly wide range of possible outcomes. But all but two of those highly competitive races (the two exceptions are Georgia and Kentucky) are in states that are currently held by Democrats. Furthermore, there are three states — South Dakota, West Virginia, and Montana — where Democratic incumbents are retiring, and where Republicans have better than an 80 percent chance of making a pickup, in our view.

So it’s almost certain that Republicans are going to gain seats. The question is whether they’ll net the six pickups necessary to win control of the Senate. If the Republicans win only five seats, the Senate would be split 50-50 but Democrats would continue to control it because of the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Joseph Biden.

Our March forecast projected a Republicans gain of 5.8 seats. You’ll no doubt notice the decimal place; how can a party win a fraction of a Senate seat? It can’t, but our forecasts are probabilistic; a gain of 5.8 seats is the total you get by summing the probabilities from each individual race. Because 5.8 seats is closer to six (a Republican takeover) than five (not quite), we characterized the GOP as a slight favorite to win the Senate.

The new forecast is for a Republican gain of 5.7 seats. So it’s shifted ever so slightly — by one-tenth of a seat — toward being a toss-up. Still, if asked to place a bet at even odds, we’d take a Republican Senate.

Of course, it can be silly to worry about distinctions that amount to a tenth of a seat, or a couple of percentage points. Nobody cares all that much about the difference between 77 percent and 80 percent and 83 percent. But this race is very close. When you say something has a 47 percent chance of happening, people interpret that a lot differently than if you say 50 percent or 53 percent — even though they really shouldn’t.

President Obama remains fairly unpopular with an approval rating of about 43 or 44 percent. His numbers haven’t changed much since March (perhaps they’ve improved by half a percentage point). It may be that modestly improved voter perceptions about the economy are being offset by increasing dissatisfaction of his handling of foreign policy.

Both Democratic and Republican voters report lower levels of enthusiasm today than they did in 2010 (perhaps for good reason). But Republican voters are more enthusiastic than Democrats on a relative basis. That will potentially translate to an “enthusiasm gap” which favors the GOP, but not as much as it did in 2010.

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 Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist are now officially on the 2014 ballot.

Both Scott and Crist qualified for the ballot Monday.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner also qualified for re-election. The three incumbents are all Republicans.

Candidates seeking statewide and local offices were allowed to start qualifying at noon. Qualifying closes at noon on Friday.

Judicial candidates and candidates for U.S. Congress have already qualified.

Nan Rich plans to qualify on Tuesday.

REAX: “Rick Scott officially asked Florida voters for another term today, but the truth is Florida’s middle class can’t afford four more years of Rick Scott. The last 3 years have seen this governor cut education by over $1 billion and raise taxes on the middle class so he could give tax breaks to big corporations and the wealthy special interests. Scott refused federal money that would have provided health care for 1 million Floridians and built much-needed high-speed rail. He has opposed raising the minimum wage, cut scholarships for kids trying to lift themselves up, and vetoed the chance for Florida’s Dreamers to get driver’s licenses. From running a company that defrauded billions from Medicare to giving tens of millions in state contracts to wealthy campaign contributors, Rick Scott has proven he can’t be trusted and that he is not on the side of Florida’s middle class.” — Allison Tant


Following a lawsuit challenging a Florida law that allows politicians to shield their financial investments from public disclosure, Gov. Scott and Charlie Crist both released financial records detailing their investments and net worth.

The documents paint a stark financial contrast between Scott and Crist, even though the former governor has cashed in during his three years in private life with lucrative paydays from one of Florida’s top law firms and largest developers.

Besides the financial disclosure, Scott also released three years’ worth of his income tax returns indicating he earned $9.3 million in 2010, $80.3 million in 2011, and $8.7 million in 2012.

Scott, a former health-care CEO who poured $73 million on his own wealth into his 2010 election, didn’t immediately release the Form 6 document he signed detailing his current net worth and income.

By comparison, Crist disclosed a net worth Monday of $1.25 million and $712,000 in income last year — including $296,700 is payment from Orlando law firm Morgan & Morgan and another $182,933 in “consulting fees” he was paid by developer St. Joe Co. He also disclosed $194,500 in St. Joe Co. stock.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and members of the Florida Legislature, victims and advocates will be on hand at the Cabinet Room, Lower Level of the State Capitol at 12:30 p.m. for the signing of HB 989 and 7141, which increase prosecution of human trafficking criminals and improve services to survivors.


Gov. Scott and the state Cabinet will meet and consider selling seven parcels of land, including four shuttered prisons, to generate money that could be used for Florida Forever land-conservation purposes.

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CRIST TELLS TEACHERS ‘IT’S OVER’ FOR SCOTT via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

Crist made his bid to win his old job back official, filing for governor and using the occasion to hold a round-table discussion with teachers who blasted incumbent Gov. Scott.

About a dozen teachers sat down with the former governor in a Leon County library to complain about salaries and the bill Scott, the incumbent Republican, signed into law in 2011 creating a “merit pay” system for teachers that has been challenged in court.

Education has been a recent focus of Scott’s campaign, which has already spent more than $14 million on ads and blasted Crist for signing a university tuition “differential” bill allowing three universities to charge students more for college. Lawmakers and Scott this year watered down the amount the universities can raise.

One teacher thanked Crist for vetoing a similar merit pay bill his final year in office, an event he used at the time to help re-launch his 2010 independent candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat he lost to Marco Rubio.

“It was the last time anybody listened to us,” Fran Hern, a Leon County teacher, told him.

Crist pledged to the group to undo “everything” Scott has pushed in the education policy and funding arenas.

Other teachers accused Scott of chasing away teachers from Florida, thanks to increased performance standards for teachers and lagging pay.

TWEET, TWEET: @Mdixon55: .@FLGovScott, in 1 of the more passionate interviews I’ve had with him, says @CharlieCrist is “crazy” for thinking he can run on education


A fundraising reception is planned in Orlando for Crist at The Citrus Restaurant, 821 North Orange Ave., Orlando. 6:30 p.m.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Sen. Rich will attend a reception and fundraiser in Okaloosa County on Tuesday. Home of Lynn Keefe; 15 Country Club Rd., Shalimar. 5:30 p.m.

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A Florida judge deciding a landmark trial has been given starkly different views of whether legislators violated the law and drew up new congressional districts in 2012 in a way to help Republicans be more easily elected.

The 12-day trial over the maps wrapped up earlier this month. Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, who is deciding the case, required the two sides to submit closing written statements, which they did last week. They disagree sharply over whether legislators did anything illegal.

Lewis is expected to rule by the end of the month. The judge could call on the Legislature to redraw the districts, but it is likely the case will be appealed no matter who wins.

The trial marks the first test of a 2010 constitutional amendment approved by voters that said legislators could no longer draw up districts to favor incumbents or members of a political party.

Attorneys for the groups suing the Legislature, which include the League of Women Voters, contend the testimony during the trial proved that what legislators did was the “very antithesis” of what voters demanded.

They pointed to several pieces of evidence including testimony that a top House aide shared maps with a Republican consultant before they were made public. Another map, which resembled one put together by one consultant, was submitted in the name of a college student who said under oath he had nothing to do with it. The groups suing the Legislature also noted that legislative records, including emails, were deleted soon after lawmakers approved the new maps.


U.S. Rep. Jolly addressed the Veterans Affairs scandal and said intervention in Iraq should be “on the table” at a Suncoast Tiger Bay political club luncheon, his first appearance since winning office.

Jolly, who won Florida’s 13th Congressional District over Democrat Alex Sink in a March special election, focused on concerns over care and facilities for veterans in the wake of VA secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation in May. The event was at Orange Blossom Catering in downtown St. Petersburg.

Jolly has called for an inquiry into procedures at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center after dozens of veterans died while waiting for care in Phoenix. He said he supported exploring whether private hospitals might be able to help with the waiting list for care at VA facilities.

“When it comes to the future of the VA health care system, it’s about getting it right,” he said. “And that requires a conversation with veteran service organizations, with the budget team and with the VA itself.”

During the question-and-answer portion of the event, an attendee asked if Jolly would work to close loopholes in gun legislation to put stricter control on gun buyers with mental health problems. Jolly responded that he already had, voting for an amendment to increase funding for background checks.

Jolly said requiring people to report medical information in order to purchase firearms is a moral quandary that must be properly addressed, but a constitutionally sound solution must be reached.

Moving to the Middle East, Jolly told a questioner he thought Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl should have been retrieved, but that the White House had botched procedures in order to secure the prisoner of war. He also said the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad should be protected at all costs as Islamic militants take over vast swaths of Iraq.


Democrat Gwen Graham released her first TV spot in the campaign for North Florida’s 2nd Congressional District, where she calls for a “new approach” in how Congress works.

“I know it’s frustrating, but we’ve all had it up to here with Congress,” Graham says in “The North Florida Way,” a 30-second spot released Monday. “As the top negotiator for our local school system, it was my job to bring parents, teachers and administrators together.  To cooperate, solve problems and do what was best for students.”

The Tallahassee Democrat faces Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland for the region covering Tallahassee through Panama City and the eastern part of the Florida Panhandle.

The “North Florida Way” is the set of values that Gwen Graham, daughter of former governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, says she would take to Washington. She would use these values to break partisan gridlock.

“Cooperation, not conflict. More problem solving, less partisanship. That’s the North Florida way.”

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Florida will start allowing cancer and epilepsy patients to use a strain of low-potency marijuana next year under a bill signed into law by Gov. Scott.

Scott, who has been a firm opponent of medical marijuana and has tried to do mandate drug testing of state workers, said he signed the bill because as a “father and grandfather, you never want to see kids suffer.”

The legislation signed by Scott passed with strong support in the Republican-controlled Legislature after lawmakers heard stories of children suffering from seizures who could be helped by the strain known as Charlotte’s Web. It was a significant turnaround since the Legislature had refused in the past to consider bills dealing with medical marijuana.

The new law makes it legal to dispense to certain patients strains of marijuana with low amounts of THC and high amounts of cannabidiol, or CBD, which is used to treat seizures.

Physicians will be allowed to start dispensing the marijuana strain in January. Doctors and those seeking to receive the medical marijuana will be registered into a state-run “compassionate use registry.” Physicians can be charged with a crime if they dispense the drug to someone who is not an eligible patient.

Scott’s decision to sign the bill comes while a campaign is underway to pass a state constitutional amendment that would allow medical marijuana to anyone with a “debilitating medical condition,” including cancer, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease or any condition in which a physician believes the drug would outweigh any potential health risks.

REAX: “We applaud Governor Scott’s signing of this bill,” said Ben Pollara, Campaign Manager at United for Care. “He is joining the ranks of the millions of Floridians who agree on one indisputable fact: marijuana IS medicine. … Today is an important day for our cause, but while tens of thousands of Floridians are one step closer to a healthier life, many times that number can draw nothing but hope from this move. The only definitive and conclusive solution to removing the barriers faced by patients with debilitating conditions who can benefit from the use of medical cannabis is the approval of Amendment 2 on November 4.”


State Rep. Hager will continue a series of updates for local officials about the 2014 legislative session. City of Boynton Beach, 100 East Boynton Beach Blvd., Boynton Beach. 6:30 p.m.

REGIONAL THUMBNAILS … Palm Beach via George Bennett here. Sarasota via Jeremy Wallace here.


Drake released a new TV spot on Monday as the “proven conservative,” in his race to return to the Florida House in District 5.

In the 30-second ad, Drake starts by saying that in Northwest Florida, “We look out for each other.”  The DeFuniak Springs Republican adds that voters sent him to Tallahassee to protect values, fight Obamacare and liberals, as well as protect Second Amendment rights.

“I have never wavered,” Drake says, “and I’ve never been shy about fighting for you.”

After two terms in the House, Brad Drake bowed out from re-election after 2012 redistricting to allow fellow Republican Rep. Marti Coley to finish her last term in the seat covering Holmes, Jackson, Walton, Washington counties and part of Bay County.

Brad Drake faces Jan Hooks for the HD 5 GOP primary.


The Jacksonville attorney will hold a Tallahassee breakfast fundraiser in support of his bid for State House District 15 seat. The event begins 8 a.m. at the Governors Club Lounge, 202 South Adams St. Hosts include GOP state Sen. John Thrasher and Reps. Daniel Davis and Matt Hudson. Renner is seeking to replace Davis in the seat representing much of Duval County.

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APPOINTED: Michael Williams to North Florida Community College District Board of Trustees.

APPOINTED: Paul Wilson to the Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys.

REAPPOINTED: David Colter to the Board of Chiropractic Medicine.

REAPPOINTED: Randy Ellsworth and Thomas Hollern to the Board of Hearing Aid Specialists.

REAPPOINTED: John Neal to the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, Region 8.


Ballard Partners is entering a strategic alliance with New York City-based Tusk Strategies, Inc., which specializes in political consulting and advocacy campaigns.

Tusk Strategies develops, manages and executes successful campaigns for Fortune 500 corporations, interest and trade groups, and major advocacy groups and institutions focused on state and local government across the nation. They have put their expertise to work for a diverse group of clients, including AT&T, Walmart, Expedia, StudentsFirst, The College Board, the Weather Channel, Uber, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Resorts World, PENewark and NBC News.

Ballard Partners has been named by state and national publications as the leading government affairs firm in the Sunshine State. The Florida-based lobbying firm, with offices in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Miami, Orlando and Tampa, combines extensive experience in government affairs with unwavering advocacy to maximize results for the clients they serve.

CHECK OUT: SL7 Interviews — Patrick Slevin sits down with FFRW President Cynthia Henderson

Can Jeb Bush win the GOP nomination for President?  Is Rick Scott the “most likeable” Florida governor? What type of leader is Leslie Dougher, the new chairwoman of the Republican Party of Florida?  Are women second class citizens in politics?

Cynthia Henderson, president of Florida Federation of Republican Women answers these questions in a new blog forum called SL7 Interviews.   SL7 Interviews’ thought leaders from around the state and nation who are asked 7-key questions by veteran public relations and political consultant, Patrick Slevin a.k.a. SL7.

SL7 Interviews today’s thought leaders in politics, corporate affairs, media communications and public affairs.  To read Henderson’s SL7 Interview visit SL7 INTERVIEWS.


On Context Florida: Grass-fed beef is a health-food trend that has been spreading since at least 2010; advocates say it also benefits the environment. Bruce Ritchie notes the trend also is creating huge changes in the cattle industry in Florida, but not necessarily in ways that some environmentalists would like. Jay Carney got out just in time because the IRS scandal is about to detonate, writes Bob Sparks. Expect to hear “operative statement” and “not a smidgeon” of corruption in the same paragraph of future news stories. Skilled, caring professionals and dedicated staff of VA hospitals such as the C.W. Bill Young Medical Center and the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital each day help those who have served our nation in uniform, writes U.S. Rep. David Jolly. But today, there’s a historic crisis within parts of the Veterans Health Administration.  Patients must endure long waits for appointments; some have died during the waiting period. John L. Porter, a relative of Bob Porter, was the engineer who designed and constructed the Confederacy’s first ironclad ship, the Merrimac, which destroyed a fleet of wooden ships in the James River — until the union responded with its own ironclad, the Monitor.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Starbucks soon will be helping college kids with more than pulling all-nighters.

The company best known for its pricey java chip frappuccinos said it will pay a huge chunk of college tuition for its baristas and the rest of its 135,000 U.S. employees through a new partnership with Arizona State University.

Many companies reimburse students for a portion of the undergraduate or graduate school tuition, but fewer go this far — and the coffee chain won’t require employees who use the benefit to continue working at one of its 8,000 stores past graduation.

“There’s no doubt, the inequality within the country has created a situation where many Americans are being left behind,” Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said. “The question for all of us is, should we accept that, or should we try and do something about it?”

The Starbucks College Achievement Plan will fully reimburse employees enrolled as college juniors and seniors in one of more than 40 of ASU’s online degree programs. Starbucks will pay partial tuition and provide need-based scholarships if students are enrolled as freshmen or sophomores.

Schultz said the new reimbursement program, far richer than Starbucks’s current tuition benefit, was inspired by participation in the Markle Economic Future Initiative. He co-chairs the group with Zoe Baird, head of the Markle Foundation and one-time U.S. attorney general nominee. ASU’s Crow is a member.

ASU will accept transfer credit from Starbucks’s employees and as part of the Starbucks program, the university will provide coaching and academic advising for students. It was chosen because it was the only institution that could offer high-quality education at scale to all Starbucks’s employees who might be interested, Olson said. ASU’s online undergraduate program costs between $480 to $543 per credit hour.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to two of the best, Brett Doster and Toby Philpot.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.