Sunburn for 6/18 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

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Jeb Bush has attracted a following: Common Core opponents.

Bush was in Cincinnati yesterday for a GOP fundraiser, part of his increasingly visible travel schedule, and the critics staged a protest. A video was posted on YouTube. Today, the Wall Street Journal reports on the problem it presents Bush with the activist base, but also his refusal to waver on the standards, as other politicians have. We recently looked at the money Bush’s nonprofit education foundation has taken from pro-Common Core interests.

The Bush camp has scoffed at the criticism, noting that he has been a longtime advocate for better education. “Gov. Bush has spent over 20 years as a passionate advocate for education reform including high standards, strong accountability, quality teachers and leaders, and school choice,” foundation spokeswoman Jaryn Emhof said at the time.

JEB FOR VEEP? via Tom DeFrank of the National Journal

Even before Eric Cantor’s seismic loss to a political novice backed by the Tea Party, many Republican elders had concluded that Bush, who really wants to become the third President Bush, won’t run in 2016.

The emerging consensus explains why some of these party mandarins have launched a new political boomlet touting the ex-Florida governor: Jeb for Veep.

At first, the notion seems a little weird. While a reliable ideological conservative, Bush is a dreaded mainstream Republican. Worse yet for many on the Right, he’s a fervent booster of comprehensive immigration reform. That provokes apoplexy among many Tea-Party faithful and other GOP conservatives.

With Cantor’s defeat blamed in part on his apparent willingness to entertain a middle ground on immigration, Bush as second banana on a ticket headed by a more conservative Republican would seem to be a nonstarter.

Not so fast, some GOP heavy-hitters maintain.

Legendary political operative Stu Spencer was emphatic about Jeb’s value to a party anxious to attract independents and swing Democrats in 2016.

“Jeb could be a safe choice for anybody,” said Spencer, who worked for three Republican presidents. “He has name ID, a Spanish background, [is] a former governor, and he’s conservative.”

POLL: MIAMI CUBAN-AMERICANS SUPPORT END TO EMBARGO via Laura Wides-Munoz of the Associated Press

About half of Cuban-Americans surveyed in Miami support an end to the U.S. embargo of Cuba. Even more support resuming diplomatic relations with the communist island’s government. That’s according to a Florida International University poll released Tuesday.

It’s the latest in a series of polls conducted by the university since 1991 that mark a steady evolution of Cuban-American views. Just a decade ago, electoral success in Miami depended in part on candidates’ support for the embargo. But newer Cuban arrivals and second generation Cuban-Americans tend to back more diplomacy.

The poll of 1,000 Cuban-American Miami-Dade County residents adds weight to recent efforts by Cuban-American business leaders and academics to get President Barack Obama to loosen more travel and trade restrictions with Cuba.

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EMAIL I DIDN’T OPEN: ” Do you agree with me on impeachment?” via Allen West

NRCC READY TO SPEND $1.4M TO GO AFTER JOE GARCIA via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

U.S. Rep. Garcia holds one of Florida’s most competitive swing seats, making the Democrat an inviting target for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which plans to spend $1.4 million against him on ads.

The NRCC’s buy is part of an $18 million effort aimed at what it perceives are 17 vulnerable Democrats, according to Politico.

The NRCC’s counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is also ready to chip in to keep D-26 blue and has reserved about $970,000 in ad time, according to Roll Call.

Garcia could use the help. He has been targeted by at least three conservative groups: America Rising PAC, LIBRE Initiative and Americans for Prosperity.


The Democratic House Majority PAC announced ad reservations in a number of competitive seats nationally, including the Gwen Graham-Steve Southerland race in north Florida.

The group said it had reserved $352,000 in airtime in Panama City and Tallahassee for the final weeks of November. That’s on top of the $244,000 it had already allocated. All told, House Majority PAC says it has devoted more than $12.5 million for the midterms.

Meantime, the NRCC today said it would spend $900,000 defending Southerland.

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The Florida Democratic Party’s first TV spot of the 2014 governor’s race airs this week and attacks Gov. Scott over an old weakness: Medicare fraud.

“Maybe you’ve heard about what was the largest Medicare fraud in history, committed when Rick Scott was a CEO,” says the ad. “Or that Scott’s company paid record fraud fines of one-point-seven billion dollars.”

If you haven’t heard, then your memory is bad or you didn’t turn on a Florida TV set during the height of the 2010 elections, when Scott’s Republican rival and then his Democratic opponent ensured that voters knew about the 1997 fine paid by Columbia/HCA, a hospital company Scott built.

The Scott campaign and the state GOP is focusing on the more-recent past: the hundreds of thousands of Florida jobs created while Scott was in office compared with the hundreds of thousands of jobs lost between 2007 and 2011 under former Gov. Charlie Crist, the Democratic frontrunner in the race.

The Democrats’ ad, announced during the week the statewide candidates qualify for office, serves as another campaign milestone as well as an indication of the extreme negativity in store for Floridians through November.

The Republican Party of Florida responded by calling out Crist for receiving financial support from convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein and for appointing Jim Greer, convicted in an unrelated fraud scheme, to head the state GOP when Crist was still a Republican.


An investment in a French oil services company that drills in Florida poses a conflict of interest for Gov. Scott, according to a complaint filed with the Commission on Ethics by a Broward County activist.

In the complaint, John Lundin alleges that Scott’s $135,000 investment in Schlumberger LTD., once held in a blind trust, is grounds for a broader investigation into Scott’s portfolio. Lundin said he filed the complaint after reading about Scott’s investment in Schlumberger in the Times/Herald.

“Gov. Scott’s blind trust does not exempt him from complying with State of Florida ethics laws for financial conflicts of interest,” said Lundin, 60, who now lives in Hollywood.

After becoming governor, Scott set up a blind trust for his extensive investments. It revealed his stake in Schlumberger LTD, the world’s largest oil services company that is currently involved in oil drilling in Collier County, near the Everglades. Scott and the Cabinet oversee the Department of Environmental Protection, which regulates oil drilling in Florida. Scott’s release of his tax returns showed he no longer owns interest in the company.

Lundin said that Scott should have instructed his brokerage firm, C.L. King & Associates, to divest his portfolio of any financial investments that he oversees through the DEP.

“Gov. Scott failed to do this, which is a financial conflict of interest,” Lundin states in the complaint.

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More than half of the $1.6 million raised by Crist’s political committee in May came from law firms and lawyers, according to filings with the Florida Division of Elections.

“Charlie Crist for Florida,” received $1,627,500 last month, with a minimum of $868,500 from contributors clearly identified as attorneys or law firms.

Records show donations of $200,000 from Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, based in West Palm Beach; $100,000 from the Jacksonville-area Pajcic & Pajcic; and $90,000 from Schuler, Halvorson, Weisser, Zoeller & Overbeck, also based in West Palm Beach.

Crist has a close relationship with several high-profile law firms through his time with Orlando-based legal firm Morgan & Morgan.


Florida’s gubernatorial showdown is already a two-horse race in the eyes of many.

But Democratic former state Sen. Nan Rich of Weston made it clear Tuesday she isn’t giving Crist a free pass to her party’s nomination.

Rich filed the qualifying paperwork in Tallahassee, pledging to take on Gov. Scott — but also taking jabs at her party’s frontrunner.

“When I announced my candidacy for governor a little over 2 years ago, I was answering the call of a growing chorus of Democratic voices rising across Florida,” Rich said in a statement after qualifying. “They were the voices of voters and activists who were frustrated with the failure of the last 3 Republican governors to offer real leadership to help solve Florida’s critical problems or to face the challenges ahead.”

The shot at Crist — the former Republican governor re-inventing himself as a Democrat — will likely be a constant theme this summer as Rich attempts the low-probability task of stopping the man seen as the best chance for Democrats to take back the Governor’s Mansion in 16 years. Despite being a candidate for two years, Rich has raised only $378,658 — about 3 percent of Crist’s total of $11.9 million raised in less than seven months.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rich will hold a campaign event as part of a swing through the Panhandle. Dharma Blue Restaurant, 300 South Alcaniz St., Pensacola. 4:30 p.m.


Florida’s Fox stations, in conjunction with Florida Blue Key and the Florida Law Review, have announced yet another statewide TV debate in the 2014 governor’s race. The fourth debate would be held first, on Monday, Sept. 29, at the University of Florida in Gainesville and will air from 6:30-7:30 p.m. before a live studio audience, moderated by anchors John Brown of WOFL in Orlando and Mark Wilson of WTVT in Tampa.

Florida Blue Key said it has invited Scott and Crist and Rich, and that “the debate may also include other candidates who meet the criterion for eligibility to be released at a later date.” Libertarian Party of Florida candidate Adrian Wyllie qualified on Monday for the November ballot for governor.

If the candidates accept the invitations, Florida voters could see four TV debates in the span of two-and-a-half weeks. Three other live debates are planned in the first two weeks of October — two in Tampa and one in Davie.

Scott’s campaign said this about the Fox invite: “Our campaign will consider debate requests in the fall after the Democrats choose their nominee.”

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Legislators sent four bills to Gov. Scott, including SB 102, a measure that would beef up penalties for drivers leaving the scene of serious traffic accidents. The bill is named after Aaron Cohen, a 36-year-old bicyclist killed in 2012 after a hit-and-run accident on Miami-Dade County’s Rickenbacker Causeway. Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla sponsored the measure, which creates a minimum four-year mandatory sentence for drivers leaving the scene of an accident involving death.

Waiting for Scott’s signature are also measures that would create a Central Florida Expressway Authority (SB 230), another to establish the Florida Law Enforcement Officers’ Hall of Fame (HB 41) and one for new specialty license plates (SB 132). Scott has before July 2 to either sign, veto or allow the bills to become law without a signature.


The Scripps Research Institute, recipient of the largest economic incentive ever handed out by the state of Florida, is negotiating a merger with the University of Southern California.

“The University of Southern California and The Scripps Research Institute are discussing the possibility of a relationship that would enhance the missions of both institutions,” the organizations said in a joint statement.

They offered few details about what a transaction might mean for Scripps Florida, the Jupiter outpost of the San Diego-based Scripps Research Institute. But Scripps said that its lab here would continue to operate.

“Any agreement with USC would maintain Scripps’s unique scientific culture and its commitment to the Florida campus’ continued presence and vitality in the state,” Scripps said in a statement. “As it has for the last 10 years, Scripps will honor all contracts and commitments in its partnership with the state and county.”

If the deal happens, it would mark an unusual combination of two nonprofit organizations. Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003 offered Scripps $310 million in state money to open a campus in Florida. Palm Beach County sweetened the pot with an additional $269 million in incentives.

When Bush announced The Scripps Research Institute’s expansion to Palm Beach County in October 2003, he touted an economic impact study that said the investment in Scripps would spawn some 6,500 spinoff jobs and create as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs statewide in 15 years. Only two spinoff companies have been launched from Scripps’ research.

Even biotech boosters wonder if Palm Beach County’s science cluster can achieve the grand vision Bush laid out. The industry has seen wrenching changes in the past decade. Scripps Florida and other institutes rely on federal funding, but the National Institutes of Health budget has shrunk. Drug manufacturing has moved to China.


Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Darrin P. Gayles reached an American milestone when the U.S. Senate confirmed him as a federal judge, making Gayles the first openly gay black male jurist to sit on the bench.

The vote was 97-0.

Gayles has served on the Florida circuit court since 2011 and before on the Miami-Dade county court, beginning in 2004. He graduated from George Washington University School of Law.

In February, President Barack Obama nominated Gayles and White House officials noted that he would be the first openly gay male African-American federal judge. That distinction had previously generated political opposition to the president’s nomination of another Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge.

Last year, Obama’s appointment of state Circuit Judge William L. Thomas as a federal judge for the Southern District of Florida ran into a dead end. He was not renominated this year. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the conservative Republican from Miami, blocked Thomas’ appointment — after first backing him along with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.


Major League Soccer says it doesn’t want David Beckham’s Miami expansion team to play at the site some politicians have started to promote for a new stadium: next to Marlins Park in Little Havana.

“No — we’re not considering that location,” MLS President Mark Abbott told the Miami Herald. “Our strong belief is that, to be successful, it needs to be downtown.”

That resistance, especially as elected leaders begin to coalesce around the Marlins site, could make it difficult for Beckham and his investors — who have eyed public land for their mostly privately funded stadium — to find another place they might deem suitable.

But MLS didn’t always scorn the Marlins location.

So close were MLS and the city of Miami to making a deal at the former Orange Bowl site that, in early 2008, they drafted a confidential agreement — never signed — to send to city commissioners for approval.

Before the contract was to be written, MLS Commissioner Don Garber praised then-Mayor Manny Diaz, who had included an adjacent soccer stadium into the plans for the new Miami Marlins ballpark.

“You’ve done an amazing job on this project,” Garber wrote in an email dated Dec. 12, 2007.


Suspended Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi might be going to jail even before he faces federal trial on corruption charges next month.

Prosecutors have moved to revoke Pizzi’s bond, claiming he violated the terms when he arranged to have a colleague send an email blast to thousands of supporters, including potential trial witnesses, that he was ordered not to contact by a federal magistrate judge.

The email, sent in April, aimed to portray Miami Lakes town manger Alex Rey and his staff as “corrupt” in a fake press release made to look like it was issued by the Miami-Dade County Ethics Commission, according to a new court filing. Rey, who received the email, is on the no-contact list because he is listed as a potential witness at Pizzi’s upcoming trial.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke has scheduled a hearing to decide Pizzi’s pre-trial fate.

Pizzi, elected twice as Miami Lakes mayor, was arrested last August on charges accusing him of accepting thousands of dollars in bribes during an FBI sting operation in exchange for his political support of bogus federal grant applications.

Pizzi, represented by two prominent Miami defense attorneys, has pleaded not guilty, asserting that he received no illegal money from undercover FBI agents and a recently convicted lobbyist who flipped for the feds before Pizzi’s arrest.

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AVAILABLE AT 9:00 A.M. – MY TAKE ON THE RACE TO BE SPEAKER IN 2020 Full blog post here

The leading candidates for what is arguably the second most powerful job in state politics? One is a “redshirt” freshman legislator from Arcadia who is not really a freshman because he served four years in the Florida House before his legislative district was drawn off the map under redistricting in 2012. Another is a charismatic state prosecutor from north Pinellas County who must first knock off an incumbent legislator before he can even be considered a candidate for House Speaker, while the third is the only African American Republican in the Florida Legislature.

Even after you read their names — Eric Eisnaugle, Chris Sprowls, and Mike Hill — it’s safe to assume that 95 percent of Floridians have never heard of any of the men, much less realize they are running to be one of the three leaders of state government.

And while this triumvirate of ambitious politicians is generally unknown to the public, Eisnaugle, Sprowls, and Hill are household names to many — lobbyists, staffers, fellow lawmakers — in the state capital, where careers are often defined by proximity to legislative leadership.

So as hundreds of aspirants for legislative office wage expensive, time-consuming campaigns just to win a seat in the Florida House, a second shadow campaign is being waged by the three contenders for the Speakership.

As the race currently stands, it’s more a two-man race than it is the three-person field described above. According to the select group of political insiders who work on and/or follow leadership races — the insiders of the insiders — the Speaker of the House in 2020-21 will either be Eric Eisnaugle or Tampa Bay.

BILL YOUNG RAISING DOUGH: Young, who is seeking to unseat state Rep. Dwight Dudley in House District 68, will raise money during a reception in Pinellas County. Rumba Island Bar and Grill, 1800 Gulf to Bay Blvd., Clearwater.


“Are you tired of chump politicians?”

THE BOGDANOFF EFFECT Full blog post here

I reckon the Florida Democratic Party has less than $3 million on-hand to spend on legislative races. And that’s a very generous number. Scratch $1 million of that from the back-of-the-envelope because those dollar are earmarked for South Florida incumbents who helped raise the money and want at least some of it back even if they don’t need it.

This leaves Florida Dems with $2 million, give or take, to defend Sachs, harass Brandes, and play in competitive state House races. There are 16 state House races that can be assessed as competitive — HD 21, 27, 29, 30, 47, 53, 59, 63, 65. 67, 68, 69, 112, 114, 115, 120 — eight of which are held by Republicans, seven by Democrats, and one open seat (HD 67).

With just $2 million to fight the vaunted Republican legislative campaign machine, Florida Democrats will be forced to decide early which of their fingers they can live without. Even if my math is off and the Democrats have $4 million budgeted to play in state House seats, they’d still have to make some hard decisions about where to play.

Democrats must all but give up the idea of challenging incumbent House Republicans like Keith Perry (HD 21), Ross Spano (HD 59), and Kathleen Peters (HD 69) and circle the wagons around seven House seats located near the I-4 corridor: HD 29, 30, 47, 63, 65, 67, 68.

Democrats are the incumbents in these seats, while HD 67 is without an incumbent.

Do your own math: $2 million split six ways equals a little over $333K for each candidate. Double that number so you include money from Democrat-aligned groups like the Florida Education Association and it’s reasonable to expect each incumbent to have $750K behind him or her. That sounds like a lot until you realize the Florida GOP and its business allies can likely spend five times that in each of these races.

With that kind of resource advantage in a non-presidential cycle, it’s safe to assume that some of those Democrat incumbents will not be returning to Tallahassee.

If Ellyn Bogdanoff had not run, would that have changed this math? Probably not, but the $1 million or $2 million needed to protect Maria Sachs would likely have saved two or three Democratic House members.

Of course, when you are outnumbered the way House Dems are, what’s two or three fewer votes?

SPOTTED at a Governors Club fundraiser for Senator Jeff Brandes: Ag. Commish Adam Putnam, AG Pam Bondi, CFO Jeff Atwater, and lobbyists Jim Daughton, Warren Husband, and Steve Metz,

TWEET, TWEET: @repdanayoung: Its official – I am formally qualified for the 2014 Ballot! It’s been a great honor to repres. Tampa/Hillsb in FL House these last 4 yrs!


Every year, leading Florida public relations firm Kevin Cate Communications unveils the mystery of speaking directly with those in the Tallahassee halls of power.

According to Cate, a record number of respondents (82) participated in the 2014 survey, offering “cool, anonymous” advice for being heard by your Tallahassee representative.

Among the findings: 97 percent of respondents believe citizens are important to the lawmaking process; 56 percent feel they are “very important,” a number up a point from 2013.

For constituents to communicate with legislators, the most persuasive messages have one of three elements: specific concerns, localized information or a personal story directly related to the bill.

As for how state legislators get their news, local newspapers take the lead as an information source, cited by 63 percent of respondents. In addition, SaintPetersBlog emerged this year as another leading source of news. More than one-third (39 percent) said they went to SaintPetersBlog, up 4.1 percent from last year; one-quarter (26 percent) said they took in the site’s daily political digest SUNBURN.

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On Context Florida: People are more powerful than the money of Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers combined, writes Stephen Goldstein. Billionaires may spend gazillions trying to influence public opinion, too often resorting to half-truths and outright lies or funding surrogates that do their bidding. But, in the end, only people, not dollars, can vote, Goldstein says. Steve Kurlander reports on a new study of 13, 000 American teenagers by the Center for Disease Control has found that our nation’s youth are drinking and smoking less than previous years. But what is not discussed is the evolution of government curbs to limit excesses of our teens through a combination of higher excise taxes, age limits and propaganda efforts that infringe on our right to choose. Every June, Catherine Durkin Robinson writes thank you notes to her twin sons’ teachers.  This year, she writes to the bad teachers, thanking them for demonstrating the poor behavior and skills that make Robinson look like a hero in her sons’ eyes.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

EMAIL I REGRET OPENING: “Your Ultra-Vicious (NO-cost) throwing-knife is waiting here” via Javier Manjarres of The Shark Tank


Fans of Tallahassee’s Food Truck Thursday at Lake Ella, of Tampa’s monthly Food Truck Fiesta, of Orlando’s “Monsta Lobsta” or St. Pete’s “Jimmy Sliders” will enjoy even greater peace of mind during their next lunchtime nosh with the results of a new study at hand.

Food trucks are safer than restaurants, according to a report released this week by the Institute of Justice. The group analyzed more than 260,000 food safety inspection reports in seven US cities and found that food trucks and cards did better than restaurants in terms of health and safety violations. This is good news for food truck aficionados and a persuasive message for municipal leaders who have become increasingly  reluctant to license or permit food trucks. In many areas, food truck owners face intense restrictions from lawmakers.

Food trucks in cities where regulations for mobile food are identical to regulations for brick-and-mortar restaurants, have equal if not better outcomes. In Miami, for example, restaurants had about double the number of food safety violations than food trucks between 2008 and July 2012. All the more reason to keep mobile food rolling.


Ralph Lauren’s love for the American flag and American style has earned him honors from the Smithsonian Institution.

On Tuesday, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will help present the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal to the designer at the National Museum of American History.

Clinton and Lauren joined forces in 1998 to raise money to preserve the original “Star Spangled Banner” flag that inspired the national anthem.

Ralph Lauren is known for designs that have defined American fashion and for his patriotic uniforms for U.S. Olympic athletes. He was born in 1939 to immigrant parents in the Bronx, New York, and got his start selling ties at the Empire State Building.

The Smithsonian is honoring Lauren “for his embodiment of the American experience through fashion, design and philanthropy.”


Between Rick Perry, Ted Cruz and Wendy Davis, Texas politicians in recent years have lived up to their state’s reputation for producing larger-than-life characters.

That makes the Texas political scene a natural for the Hollywood treatment.

HBO has given God Save Texas, a drama about the state’s often raucous political culture, the green light for development. It’s set to unfold at the Texas statehouse, a perennial flashpoint for national debates about issues ranging from abortion to gun rights to the size and role of government.

According to an early description first reported by, the show will follow an “idealistic cowboy” who, after election to the state Legislature, “becomes the target of the powerful energy lobby and learns how to survive in the crazy, brutal world of Texas politics.”

It’s being developed from Sonny’s Last Shot, a 2005 play by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Lawrence Wright, who will also write and co-produce the show.

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.