Sunburn for 6/23 – 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: June is “Effective Communications Month,” the perfect time to express yourself in a clear and understandable way to avoid misinterpretation, confusion and conflict. Visit the Sachs Media Group website for some quick tips on how to be a better communicator during a crisis.

THE WEEK AHEAD via The News Service of Florida

Five months after former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel resigned following his arrest on a cocaine-possession charge, voters in Lee and Collier counties will choose his replacement in a special election Tuesday. Republican Curt Clawson, Democrat April Freeman and Libertarian Ray Netherwood are competing in Congressional District 19. Later in the week, Democratic activists and leaders will gather in Broward County for an annual gala that will feature a keynote address by former President Bill Clinton.

DNC CHIEF EXPECTS CLINTON’S HELP IN ’14 via Ken Thomas of the Associated Press

Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz expects Hillary Rodham Clinton to help Democrats heading into the midterm elections and raise money for the national party.

Wasserman Schultz said in an interview Sunday on C-SPAN that she had spoken to the potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and received assurances of the former secretary of state’s help in the 2014 elections. Clinton is expected to decide later this year or in early 2015 about her political future, and Democrats are anticipating she will raise money and campaign on behalf of candidates.

“I’m confident that she’s going to be (involved), and I’ve spoken to her,” Wasserman Schultz said in an interview on “Newsmakers.” “She’s going to be involved in helping Democrats across the country to get elected, including the DNC.”

The former first lady has said she intends to help Democrats before the 2014 elections but has not specified the extent of her role. Clinton has been focused on a tour to promote her new book, “Hard Choices,” about her time at the State Department. Former President Bill Clinton has taken an active role in fundraising for Democrats.

TED CRUZ VISITS MIAMI AS LONG-LOST SON via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

Ted Cruz had a Miami homecoming, even though the firebrand U.S. senator is from Texas.

The son of a Cuban exile, Cruz was welcomed as a long-lost son by the Miami-Dade Republican Party at its Lincoln Day Dinner, an annual fundraiser he helped sell out and amp up by criticizing President Barack Obama for everything from domestic spying to his “feckless and naïve foreign policy.”

But it was Cruz’s Cuban roots that made him a Miami son.

When Cruz asked “everyone in this room who is an immigrant or the child of an immigrant, please stand up,” nearly everyone did. Miami-Dade is the only major urban county in the country where a majority of the GOP, 72 percent, is Hispanic, nearly all Cuban.

A major difference between Cruz and the crowd: his Texas-conservative positions on immigration reform are a little tougher than those of many Miami-Dade Republicans, including his fellow U.S. senator, Marco Rubio.

Rubio was a sponsor of the so-called “Gang of Eight” comprehensive immigration reform bill, which Cruz called “amnesty” because it seeks to provide a pathway to citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

Earlier, in brief remarks to reporters, Cruz laid blame for the failure of comprehensive immigration reform at the feet of Democrats, whom he accused of having an all-or-nothing approach to the issue because they insist on a path to citizenship.


Saturday was the last day of early voting, which started on June 14. Election day is tomorrow.

Also on the ballot are Bonita Springs Republican Curt Clawson and Marco Island Libertarian Ray Netherwood. Timothy Rossano of Fort Myers is running as a write-in candidate. The vacant seat opened when former Rep. Trey Radel resigned after a cocaine bust in Washington D.C.

Early voting has been slow in both Lee and Collier counties, according to elections office workers.

In Lee County, 4,603 people voted early. However, Lee has received back more than 60,000 of its 87,652 mail-in ballots — bringing the total number of votes to about 16 percent of the county’s 400,000 registered voters.

In Collier, 330 voters cast ballots on Saturday for a total of 2,695 during the early voting period. More than 15,100 of Collier’s approximately 22,000 mail-in votes were returned. So far, 17.8 percent of Collier County voters have cast ballots.

Blazier said turnout is often lower during special elections. More people in both counties voted early in April’s more contentious Republican primary — 6,327 in Lee, 4,163 in Collier.

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CRYPTIC: A respected PR operative sent Sunday afternoon a press advisory, the details of which are embargoed until 10:15 a.m. I have been briefed on some of the details of what is at issue and I am fairly confident this story will be driving the day. “This is some New York Times stuff,” a source familiar with the story tells me.

Follow me on Twitter or check for the latest details.


The end of qualifying week in Florida officially closed out any chance Sen. Bill Nelson would run for governor. He never said he would but he always left wiggle room and people around him were exploring the possibility in more than a casual way.

… “I said consistently I have no plans, I have no intention,” he said. “But when people would come crying on my shoulder, “You’re the one who can win … look at our state.’ Sure, that gripped me.”

“Florida has been run into a ditch and I’ll give you two good examples that make me squirm as to whether or not I could make a difference were I to have decided to run,” he added, naming the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid under Obamacare and the threat of rising sea levels and climate change.

Still, Nelson concluded he could address those issues from the Commerce Committee, the expansive panel he will chair if Democrats hold the Senate in November.

“The Commerce Committee is the biggest kept secret up here. Its jurisdiction is so broad – telecommunications, all science, transportation safety. Aviation. The space program. The Coast Guard. … What I concluded was it was better for me to stay here.”

DUELING EDUCATION RECORDS DEFINE GOV’S RACE via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

Charlie Crist has accused Rick Scott of shortchanging teachers, passing a historically large, $77 billion budget this year that included less money for Bright Futures scholarships and per-pupil spending compared with the heyday levels of Crist’s first year as governor.

This year’s budget devotes $18.9 billion in aid to classrooms, or $6,937 per pupil. Although that’s up $176 from last year, it still falls a bit short of the record $7,126 per student that Florida was spending in 2007, before the Great Recession.

“You want people to get good jobs, but you won’t educate them,” Crist said. “It’s nonsense.”

Despite Crist’s claim, his administration actually reduced per-pupil spending after 2007, and Scott and Republican lawmakers have been increasing it since the current governor’s second year in office.

Education has been an outsized focus so far for Scott’s campaign, which has spent $16 million on ads.

A new $2 million ad buy attacks Crist’s decision in 2007 to sign a bill allowing Florida’s top public research schools to begin charging higher “tuition differentials” for students.

The former governor has defended that decision as “the right thing to do at the time,” given the economic collapse that was hamstringing university budgets.

… Last week, Scott signed a bill blocking the other universities from imposing the increases and reducing the amount UF and FSU could add each year, from 15 percent to 6 percent. The bill also reinstates a cap on future college costs for parents under the Florida Prepaid College Plan.

Democrats have countered that Scott cut funding for another popular higher-education tool, the Bright Futures scholarship program. The Legislature reduced funding from $306 million to $266 million this year — down from more than $400 million a year when Crist was in office.

Crist closed his teacher meeting by saying that “Rick Scott doesn’t treat you right, and I’m sorry for that. But in 41/2 months, it’s over.”


Nan Rich, a former state senator from Weston, is the decided underdog in the Aug. 26 Democratic primary. Her opponent, Charlie Crist, is better known and better financed, and widely expected to face sitting Gov. Scott in the general election.

Still, Rich has spent more than two years crisscrossing the state, hammering on her talking points: More money for public schools. An increase in the minimum wage. Health care for all.

“Look at what happened with Eric Cantor,” Rich said last week, recalling the U.S. House majority leader from Virginia who shockingly lost this month’s primary election to a little-known economics professor. “That’s the power of grassroots organizing.”

That’s partially because of name recognition. Rich is well known in South Florida, where she was a longtime community activist and held elected office. But elsewhere in the state, her name doesn’t ring a bell in most voters’ minds. A Quinnipiac poll in April found that 85 percent of voters hadn’t heard enough about Rich to have an opinion on her. Her Twitter account has just 2,379 followers.

Rich’s campaign has caused some friction in the party. Some Democrats say she is detracting from the front-runner and calling attention to his political liabilities.

Rich has said she is the only “true Democrat” in the race. Crist has repeatedly rebuffed her calls for a primary debate — a fact the Republican Party of Florida has used to attack Crist.

The Florida Democratic Party says it is neutral in the primary.

“We have a great deal of respect for Sen. Rich and her service to Florida,” spokesman Max Steele said in a statement. “As the primary unfolds, we are looking toward the November election and are building the grassroots movement to defeat Rick Scott.”


Sheldon will campaign during a meet-and-greet event hosted by state Rep. Victor Torres and Rep. Ricardo Rangel. IUPAT District Council 78, 2153 West Oak Ridge Road, Orlando. 6 p.m.

PUSH FOR POT GOES GRASSROOTS via Jerome Stockfisch of the Tampa Tribune

Veterans of the state’s citizen initiative process say there’s a sure way to kill any proposed constitutional amendment: Make it deeply partisan and dominated by special interests.

Amendment 2, which would legalize the cultivation, purchase, possession and use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases, goes before statewide voters in November.

This week, the “Yes On 2” group urged supporters to pledge a small amount — say, 50 cents — every time the opposing “Vote No On 2” campaign posts to Facebook or Twitter. That pledge would have cost a donor about $30 in the past 30 days, the group said.

United for Care, the umbrella group over the pro-medical marijuana movement, next weekend will hold what it calls the largest gathering of patients, activists and advocates in a “For the Patients” fundraiser in South Florida.

On the opposition side, a “Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot” campaign was launched earlier this month, with the Florida Sheriff’s Association and 45 partners vowing to educate voters about the dangers of the amendment. Polk County’s Grady Judd leads the sheriff’s group and calls the amendment “a misleading, well thought-out fraud.”

The campaign to legalize medical marijuana is being largely bankrolled by John Morgan, an Orlando trial lawyer and Democrat whose ubiquitous “For the People” ads have made him a household name. Morgan has pumped some $4 million into the effort, saying marijuana relieved the suffering of his father, a cancer patient, and a brother, who is paralyzed.

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Florida is among the states leading the nation  in terms of globalization, however, it has a way to go in other major aspects of the “New Economy”.  A report published last week by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and reported on by the Washington Post looks at the U.S. state economies of 2014 in light of 25 indicators broken up into five key areas: (1) knowledge jobs, (2) globalization, (3) economic dynamism, (4) the digital economy, and (5) innovation capacity. Aggregating scores on all of these, Florida scores exactly in the middle of the pack, at No. 25 among states.

Florida scores at No. 21 in patent generation overall but at No. 11 for inventor patents; No. 38 in presence of scientists and engineers; No. 21 in broadband telecommunications; No. 20 in initial public offerings; and No. 18 in “fast growing firms”. Florida has the 5th highest rate of “job churning” in the U.S.; and the 13th highest rate of entrepreneurial activity.  These factors, among others, land Florida in the top half or quartile of states in “economic dynamism” — defined as how easy it is for a new business to flourish and businesses to adapt in the state.


Florida taxpayers have been left shouldering most of the $2 billion Everglades water pollution cleanup cost, despite a constitutional amendment passed by nearly 70 percent of voters that calls for the sugar industry to pick up its share of the tab.

About 62 percent of the polluting phosphorus that flows toward the Everglades comes from water draining off farmland dominated by sugar cane, according to state environmental records.

But just 12 percent of the $2 billion cleanup expense has been paid by special taxes on those sugar-cane growers and other farmers south of Lake Okeechobee. That means other property taxpayers have had to dig deeper into their wallets to pay to tackle the unnaturally high phosphorus infusion that is a prime focus of Everglades restoration.

A “Polluter Pays” amendment to the Florida Constitution that voters approved in 1996 was supposed to force the sugar industry to at least cover its share of cleaning up damage to the Everglades. But some say state leaders have failed to fully enforce the measure.

The taxpayers’ share of the Everglades cleanup gets even bigger under Gov. Rick Scott’s $880 million water pollution cleanup plan. Last year, state lawmakers agreed to keep charging Everglades restoration fees paid by sugar-cane growers and other farmers south of Lake Okeechobee at existing levels for 10 years longer than once planned. But lawmakers haven’t been willing to increase those fees, even as the public cleanup costs increase.

Environmental advocates contend that the sugar industry’s political muscle continues to allow it to avoid having to pay a share of Everglades restoration proportionate to its responsibility for pollution problems.

Sugar industry advocates, as well as top state leaders, maintain that sugar-cane growers are paying enough for Everglades restoration.

They point to those special fees that sugar growers pay, improved farming practices that reduce pollution as well as the industry’s economic impact on the state as evidence of the benefits that the sugar industry delivers. Sugar producers also pay property taxes, in addition to those special fees, that help fund Everglades restoration.

Draining parts of South Florida to make way for farming and development shrunk the Everglades to half its size, siphoning away water that once naturally flowed from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay. Worsening the problem, polluted stormwater washing off farmland and urban areas threatens what remains of Everglades habitat.

The public costs of those restoration efforts grew in 2013 when the Florida Legislature approved the $880 million plan, without increasing the “Agricultural Privilege” tax, the special fees levied on sugar-cane and other growers south of Lake Okeechobee to help pay for it.

According to U.S. Sugar Corp., deciding a fair share of Everglades restoration costs isn’t as simple as looking at the percentages of phosphorus in water flows because the South Florida flood-control system was designed to move much of the region’s water through the Everglades Agricultural Area.

Also, Lake Okeechobee water that sugar-cane growers and other farmers tap for irrigation already is laden with phosphorus and other pollutants that flow in from north of the lake.

The sugar industry also benefits from public help that enables sugar production to flourish on land that was once part of the Everglades.

The federal government uses price supports, domestic market allotments and import quotas and tariffs to prop up the value of U.S.-produced sugar.

Florida leases publicly owned land at reduced rates to sugar producers, adding to the hundreds of thousands of acres they already own. The South Florida Water Management District leases about 26,000 acres of publicly owned land — an area larger than the island of Manhattan — to cane growers, including U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals, according to the district’s property database.


… FLORIDA IS EPICENTER OF FIGHT AGAINST BIG TOBACCO via Stephen Nohlgren of the Tampa Bay Times

Two decades ago, a husband-wife team of Miami lawyers took a David and Goliath swipe at Big Tobacco, filing a class-action suit on behalf of 500,000 Floridians.

That class action was finally dismissed eight years ago, splintering into thousands of individual lawsuits, making Florida the epicenter of tobacco litigation.

Only a few clients have collected, and cases have crept along so slowly that many plaintiffs died before getting their day in court.

Now the pace of litigation may pick up.

Court actions recently stripped the industry of a potent defense that could have wiped out thousands of cases. Lawyers are honing their skills and sharing notes about taking on the industry. A California investment firm is confident enough of ultimate victory that it is fronting cash to plaintiffs and attorneys.

Florida has 2,000 to 3,000 suits that descended from the  class action, compared to maybe 100 pending anti-tobacco suits in all other states combined.

After a two-year trial, the jury awarded the class $145 billion. On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court rejected the enormous verdict, saying plaintiffs must sue individually to prove their own specific damages.

These individual Engle suits — which had to be filed within a year — carried a big advantage: They could retain the class-action jury findings that cigarettes are addictive and dangerous and the industry had conspired to hide that fact.

Everyone else had to prove those allegations from scratch — a pricey and difficult process.


Victory Casino Cruises is bringing gambling back to Mayport, or more accurately, back to the ocean 3 miles off Mayport.

The cruises run five to six hours, but the gambling can’t start until the boat is 3 miles out to sea. With the 2 miles on the river, that means there’s no gambling during the first and last 40 minutes or so.

When they get out far enough, about the time people have finished eating, the captain makes the announcement. There’s one button that turns on all the slots. That’s more than 300 slots, along with roulette, craps, blackjack, baccarat, poker, bingo and sports betting.

Lester Bullock, CEO of Victory, has operated a larger ship out of Port Canaveral since 2011, but was involved with other gambling ships before that. There were once as many as 35 gambling boats operating out of Florida ports in the 1990s, he said. SunCruz had 11 of them.

He is counting on the passengers to be there, to pay their $10 boarding fee and to gamble. He offers free drinks to those who are gambling and live entertainment for those who aren’t.

He’s hired 230 employees, and though he hasn’t totaled the actual payroll yet, he’s budgeted $6 million a year for it.

There are gaming tables, but slots — which range from 1 cent to $25 — account for 70 percent of his revenue, he said.

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RAYANN STEPS UP TO THE PLATE AT WAHOOS GAME via Will Isern of the Pensacola News Journal

At this point, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard the name RayAnn Moseley.

And now, so have the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.

RayAnn — the Gulf Breeze girl with severe epilepsy whose parents fought, and succeeded, through the 2014 Florida legislative session to get a low-THC medical marijuana bill passed in the state — threw out one of several first pitches game against the Huntsville Stars.

RayAnn became the face of the push for medical marijuana in Florida as her parents, Peyton and Holley, lobbied Florida lawmakers to consider legalizing medical marijuana treatments for epilepsy patients.

Rep. Matt Gaetz took up the cause and lobbied hard to get such a law passed. Gaetz threw another of the first pitches Saturday.

“RayAnn was the star of this movement,” he said. “Her family is the reason it got done. It means a lot to the 125,00 people in Florida who have intractable epilepsy. It’s good to be here celebrating that some common sense actually got through in Tallahassee.”


Off: John Cary is no longer an attorney for the House Civil Justice Subcommittee.

On: James Zock is now district secretary for outgoing Rep. Dave Hood.

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Dozens of state legislators earned new terms in office as Florida’s qualifying period for the 2014 election ended Friday.

With Qualifying Week over, here are 11 takeaways now that the playbill for this Fall’s elections is set.

Among the takeaways … .3. Some smart folks in Tallahassee tell me that there is some concern about Republican incumbent Thad Altman and whether he can hold off primary challenger Monique Miller. I keep hearing how Miller, a party activist from Brevard, is positioned “to Cantor” Altman. I won’t pretend to know that much about this race but there certainly was a buzz about it when I was in the capital last week.

… 5. How did it happen that none of the consultants working for the candidates in House District 31 found a write-in candidate to close the GOP primary? Now, the five Republicans running to replace term-limited Bryan Nelson will have to compete for Democrat and Independent votes. It’s not clear which candidate this situation will benefit the most, but HD 31 — which was already a must-watch — is now the most interesting legislative primary.

… 10. For my money, the most interesting House race outside of Tampa Bay may be in HD 112, where well-connected Republican Daniel Diaz Leyva is challenging Democrat incumbent Jose Javier Rodriguez. This is, by far, the most interesting House race in South Florida — one with implications for the race to be Speaker of the House in 2021-22.


NBC 6 South Florida, Qualifying for Florida Elections Wraps Up – Dozens of state legislators earned new terms in office as Florida’s qualifying period for the 2014 election ended Friday… Orlando Sentinel, Central Florida candidates line up as qualifying ends – voters can expect to see a handful of contentious races for the state Legislature and county offices this year. Among the primary matchups, incumbent Democratic state Sen. Geraldine Thompson will take on a familiar foe, former Sen. Gary Siplin of Orlando… Florida Today, Brevard races are on: Qualifying closes– Florida Rep. Ritch Workman and two Canaveral Port Authority commissioners — Jerry Allender and Tom Weinberg — won re-election at noon Friday, when no one qualified to run against them… Daytona Beach News Journal, Another year of automatic reelections – When qualifying ended Friday, Sen. Dorothy Hukill returned to office without the inconvenience of anyone casting a vote. The Democrats didn’t put up an opponent…  Bradenton Herald, Underdog Nan Rich chases Charlie Crist in primary – Rich’s recent swing through the Panhandle began Tuesday, when she dropped off her qualifying documents in Tallahassee. She was joined by a dozen fans, who clapped and cheered once the paperwork was in… Miami Herald, Qualifying for Florida elections wraps up – Scott has to confront two relative unknowns in the Republican primary, while former Gov. Charlie Crist will run against former state Sen. Nan Rich in the Democratic primary… Tallahassee Democrat, Slate of statewide candidates finalized – State Rep. Perry Thurston was the last major statewide candidate to file his qualifying papers, challenging Attorney General Pam Bondi. But first, Thurston will have to get past fellow Democrat George Sheldon, who registered earlier in the week… Tampa Bay Times, One-third of Florida Legislature faces no opposition at polls – The lack of opposition means candidates for eight state Senate seats — all incumbent Republicans — and 38 House seats, all but one an incumbent, automatically won their seats despite no ballots being cast in those districts. That will make 2014 even less competitive than 2012, when 24 percent of lawmakers ran unopposed… Sunshine State NewsFor 45 unopposed races in Florida, the election ended noon Friday – November will come five months early for a handful of unopposed Florida lawmakers, as the end nears in the weeklong qualifying period for statewide races.


Central Florida voters can expect to witness a handful of heated races for the state Legislature this year.

But the outcomes aren’t likely to place much of a dent in Republican control of the statehouse, even as the regional overall becomes more Democratic-tilting.

One of the more interesting contests could be a primary rematch of sorts between incumbent Democratic state Sen. Geraldine Thompson and former Sen. Gary Siplin, of Orlando.

Siplin gave up his seat to term-limits two years ago, and his wife, Victoria, narrowly lost a bitter primary for the Senate District 12 seat to Thompson in 2012.

Now Gary Siplin, a colorful salesman and lawyer who served in both the House and Senate, is aiming to reclaim his old job.

“After 14 years, you can’t ever leave the game, brother,” Siplin said.

Thompson, though, said the district had an opportunity to keep the seat in the Siplin family in 2012 and “wasn’t fooled.” She said she plans to make the race about Siplin’s controversial votes for bills like the “Stand Your Ground” law.

“In 2012 the electorate … did not support him, and I do not expect that to change,” Thompson said.


With his talent and pedigree, it’s difficult to imagine Sean Shaw not defeating opponents Tatiana DensonSharon Carter and Ed Narain in the race to replace term-limited Rep. Betty Reed.

(But) Shaw should not have been endorsed by Charlie Crist — not because Shaw isn’t deserving of Crist’s endorsement, but because Crist should not be playing around in competitive Democratic primaries.

The race for HD 61 is just that: competitive. While Shaw has a lot of establishment support, Narain is no slouch in that department. In fact, Narain probably has as many contacts in the Tallahassee lobbying community as Shaw, who, for what it’s worth, has made more than a few enemies in the capital.

While Shaw is the on-paper frontrunner, there are some handicappers who say Narain is the candidate with the support of the average voter in the district. I won’t pretend to know too much about HD 61’s politics, other than to say Shaw vs. Narain is a race to watch these next two months.

Which is why I don’t understand why Crist — who is still trying to make friends in the Democratic Party — is meddling in one of the very few competitive Democratic legislative primaries outside of South Florida.


Several Republican state senators are in California today and tomorrow to raise money for the campaign arm of the Florida GOP. The highlight of the trip is a golf outing at legendary Pebble Beach. The festivities kick-off tonight with an opening reception and include a dinner on Tuesday.


Republican Julio Gonzalez, who is seeking to replace term-limited Rep. Doug Holder in House District 74, will raise money during a reception in Sarasota. Gecko’s, 5585 Palmer Crossing Circle, Sarasota. 5:30 p.m.

TWEET, TWEET: @jasonbrodeur: Using the iPad to walk doors today. First time without paper lists. I actually like this new way better.

TWEET, TWEET: @mattgaetz: Thank you to the wonderful people of HD 4 for deciding to wait 2 years to upgrade your State Representative 🙂 #iloveyouall! #sayfie

TWEET, TWEET: @mopearson: Thanks to all the volunteers that came out to help us walk today in district 47! #sayfie #MOtivated

TWEET, TWEET: @richardcorcoran: Thanks so much to the people of Pasco for your support! It it a great honor to serve you. I’ll continue to fight for you and your families.

***SUNBURN is sponsored in part by Floridian Partners, LLC, a statewide Public and Government Affairs firm with offices in Tallahassee, Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. Their firm’s success is measured by its clients’ success. Outreach and Public Advocacy; Strategic Issue and Campaign Development; Grassroots and Grasstops Coalition Building – Floridian Partners is a one-stop firm for clients needing assistance at all levels of government in Florida.***

APPOINTED: Forrest Masters to the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology.

APPOINTED: Elijah “Ed” Armstrong III to the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

APPOINTED: Melanie Peterson to the South Florida Water Management District.

APPOINTED: David Hobbs to the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission.

REAPPOINTED: Benito Arzon and Van Toth to the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission.


William McKinley, PooleMcKinley: CDR Maguire


Alex Vogel spent the last decade building a Washington lobbying business with a successful practice feeding investors information about potentially market-moving changes in policy.

But with federal investigators scrutinizing Washington’s interactions with hedge funds and other traders, Mr. Vogel is quitting his firm. His new venture, VogelHood Research, will make all its predictions based on computer algorithms using publicly available information—without ever talking to members of Congress or other policy makers.

Mr. Vogel’s shift shows how Washington’s political-intelligence business is going through a wrenching transformation in the face of heightened legal and regulatory scrutiny, including insider-trading probes.

In recent months, a number of lobbyists have left the political-intelligence business, and several lobbying and law firms have created new internal procedures and protocols to guard against violating insider-trading rules.

Some hedge funds and other Wall Street firms have, meanwhile, scaled back their own information-gathering activities in the capital, and others are conducting reviews of their Washington operations, according to people familiar with the political-intelligence industry. The Wall Street Journal profiled the political-intelligence practice at New York broker-dealer JNK Securities in 2011. It later exited the business.

Mr. Vogel’s lobbying firm hasn’t been associated with any allegations of improper trading. But he says he is shifting his business as the industry evolves.

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CAN’T WAIT TO READ: A must-read coming this fall: Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes: Decoding the Jargon, Slang, and Bluster of American Political Speech by Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark.


On Context Florida: Small communities have always faced “brain drain,” says Mark O’Brien, as many of their most educated young people leave for big cities, bright lights and the promise of bigger paychecks. Duval Superintendent of Schools Nikolai Vitti introduced an innovative, if short-lived, proposal to allow open enrollment district-wide to keep more students in the public system writes Julie Delegal. The public school district is losing too much money to privatized alternatives, including private-voucher schools and their public-private cousins, charter schools. Budget woes are coming home to roost. Erectile dysfunction may be due to decreased blood flow, and is treatable, but “electoral dysfunction” is not easy to overcome. Stephen Goldstein notes that Florida suffers from repeated perversions of the political process, guaranteed to persist for four years — or longer. Although lawmakers failed to grant Florida’s nurse anesthetists the authority to administer anesthesia without physician supervision, Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists President Jorge Valdes says they can look forward to continuing to be a part of the solution to Florida’s health-care workforce crisis.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Tampa Bay Times legend Lucy Morgan was honored Saturday morning in Naples at the annual Leadership Florida meeting.

A Pulitzer Prize winner who retired from the Times in 2013 (her second time), Morgan received the 2014 LeRoy Collins Lifetime Leadership Award, the highest honor given by the statewide group. The award is meant “to recognize an individual who, like Governor Collins, has gone above and beyond by using his/her leadership abilities over a lifetime to improve the quality of life for Florida’s citizens and its future generations.”

Jack Levine, a longtime advocate for children in Florida who runs the 4Generations Institute in Tallahassee, nominated Morgan for the honor based on her extensive journalistic accomplishments in Florida. He shared his letter to the group with us:

“Her ability to find facts and report reality at every level of our governmental systems has given us citizens invaluable information about the people, policies and politics of Florida. When Lucy writes, we all read — and are edified, sometimes enraged, but always engrossed in her telling the story of power exercised for good or evil. Her illustrious career has been highlighted by special hallmarks of courage, conscientious leadership and remarkable achievement.

“In 1973 Lucy was sentenced to jail for refusing to reveal a source. Three years later the Florida Supreme Court overturned the sentence and granted reporters a limited right to protect sources.

“In 1982 she was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for her stories about drug smuggling in Dixie and Taylor Counties that resulted in 250 people going to jail, including several government officials. Lucy and Jack Reed shared the Pulitzer for investigative reporting in 1985 for their work exposing corruption in the Pasco County Sheriff’s office, leading to the resignation of Sheriff John Short.

“In recognition of an illustrious career covering state government, the Florida Senate honored Lucy by naming the press gallery, the Lucy Morgan Senate Press Gallery. Ask anyone in power in any corner of Florida to name the one person they feared most to receive a message from to return a call — it has been Lucy. For so many decades, just the mention of her name sends cold chills up the spine of anyone crossing the line of ethical conduct, or even thinking of approaching that line.

***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***


Your GPS-enabled exercise tracking gizmo may  be among those feeding data to researchers who have culled numbers and mapped out the most jogged and biked routes on the planet. Strava, a San Francisco-based company, depicts these routes using global heat maps. These maps represent nearly 78 million bike rides and about 20 million runs that amass 220 billion data points.

In Tallahassee, defined paths are noted throughout the St. Marks trails; all around the lake at Southwood; in clear, dark channels throughout Tom Brown and Piney Z; at the Florida State Stadium — literally — you can tell that some health nuts are running bleachers with regularity; and no doubt, you can see a clear perimeter around Lake Ella.

At least one person runs at the Shark Valley Observatory Tower in the middle of the Everglades; Tampa is pretty quiet in the running and biking departments, overall; but Pinellas County makes up for that with channels carved out all around the peninsula. Disney Parks and Epcot are also hotspots for GPS-wearing exercisers.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY from the weekend to my friends Michele Cavallo, Shannon Love, Anthony Katchuk, and Bill Young II.

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.