Sunburn for 6/25 – 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: It’s easy to take color TV for granted, but it wasn’t until this day in 1951 that CBS broadcast the first color television show. The variety program, broadcast only to color sets in four cities, was the first step in changing broadcast television forever. Without color TV, the trippy music acts of the late ‘60s would have been SO much less interesting!


In a victory for the Tea Party movement, Republican Curt Clawson won a special election in southwest Florida to replace former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, who resigned in January after pleading guilty to cocaine possession.

The businessman and former Purdue basketball star cruised past Democrat April Freeman and Libertarian Ray Netherwood in a solidly Republican district on the state’s Gulf Coast. With all precincts reporting, uncertified results show Clawson captured 67 percent of the vote for District 19, which includes most of Lee County and about a third of Collier County.

Last fall, Radel pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of cocaine possession and was sentenced to a year of probation. He admitted to buying cocaine from an undercover officer in Washington. A onetime tea party favorite, Radel resigned in January.

Clawson will now serve the remainder of Radel’s term but must face voters again in November to win re-election.

The special election was essentially a formality in a Republican stronghold that has not elected a Democrat to Congress in more than four decades. In 2012, voters backed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama 61 percent to 39 percent.

The run-up to the vote was relatively quiet, with about 22 percent of the district’s eligible voters casting ballots in the contest. Most of the political intensity was reserved for the heated and expensive four-way GOP primary in April.

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Sen. Rubio in a radio interview said the news media is ignoring the deleted emails at the forefront of the controversy over the IRS.

If it had been the Bush Administration, Rubio said, “That story would dominate the news … Every newspaper in America, every television station in America would turn it into Watergate. … At some point, you have to begin to take this stuff quite seriously. A bunch of emails just vanishes. Just vanished. And suddenly, we’re not supposed to inquire about it? So I think it is outrageous.”

Critics on Twitter, where we first posted the interview link, responded that millions of missing emails under Bush were attributed to software issues. At the time, Democrats were the ones talking of scandal and cover-up.

Rubio also discussed the VA bill and took a few shots at Charlie Crist. “I thought he was a terrible governor … To give him the job again would be a terrible mistake for the state.” It might also be a bad thing for Rubio, who could either run for re-election in 2016 or launch a presidential bid.


House Speaker John Boehner named U.S.  Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart to a panel to look at the influx of immigrants on the southern border.

Boehner blamed President Obama for the situation and his panel contains all Republicans: Rep. John Carter of Texas, Diaz-Balart; Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia; Rep. Kay Granger of Texas; Rep. Mike McCaul of Texas; Rep. Steve Pearce of New Mexico and Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona.

“The current situation happening at the border is a serious humanitarian crisis that needs urgent attention. We must find a humane solution to make sure these minors are both safe and healthy, while strictly adhering to the laws of this great nation,” Diaz-Balart said. “I thank Speaker Boehner for appointing me to this group and I look forward to working with my colleagues so that we may find the best solution. Once again, the Administration has failed to lead and therefore, Congress must do its part.”


Democratic Congressional hopeful Gwen Graham sent a letter on Tuesday to her Republican opponent calling for a series of face-to-face debates over issues important to voters in Florida’s Second Congressional District.

The Tallahassee Democrat, daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham, is running against Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland for the region covering Tallahassee through Panama City and the eastern part of the Florida Panhandle.

Graham has already agreed to two debates, and the purpose of the letter was to compel Southerland to join her in more forums throughout the increasingly swing district. CD 2 comprises the heavily Democratic City of Tallahassee as well rural districts like Southerland’s home base, highly conservative Bay County.

In a hand-delivered letter, sent to Southerland’s Panama City campaign headquarters, Graham urged the Republican to participate in additional discussions, so North Florida residents can “learn directly from both candidates about the differences in their values, records, and beliefs.”


For the first time, David Rivera is running for Congress without holding a political office.

So what has the former U.S. House of Representatives member been doing for the past two years to pay the bills?

“Business development,” the Miami Republican said.

What that means, exactly, will for now have to remain a mystery. Rivera repeatedly refused to elaborate on his profession, saying only that he will eventually file his required financial disclosures with the House. He would not name any clients or businesses that have paid him.

Earlier this month, a Florida administrative law found that, as a state representative, Rivera violated three ethics laws, included one every year between 2005 and 2009, when he failed to properly report his income. Rivera claimed in those financial disclosures that he worked as a contractor for the U.S. Agency of International Development.

USAID had no record of ever hiring him. After the Herald asked about the discrepancy in 2010, Rivera amended the financial disclosures to delete any USAID references.

In his recommendation to the state ethics commission this month, Judge W. David Watkins also noted that Rivera — after eliminating USAID from the forms — disclosed only his yearly legislative salary of about $30,000. Bank account records obtained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement showed his annual income ranged from $52,473 to $101,000, the judge said.

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Florida’s consumer confidence has jumped to the highest post-recession levels in June, now standing at 82 points, according a new University of Florida survey.

The opinion that Floridians are better off financially better than a year ago rose to 75, a four-point increase and the highest reported level since the end of the Great Recession of 2008.

Expectations that personal finances will be even better one year from now also rose five points, now at 81.

Respondents are also upbeat about the national economy for the upcoming year, up seven points to 81. The five-year outlook rose to 78, up two points.

Another post-recession record is the feeling that it is now a good time for major purchases such as household appliances, increasing four points to 94.

Younger Floridians and low-income households show the most pronounced surge of optimism. What puzzled researchers is that economic optimism in households with earnings under $30,000 a year shot up 18 points in June.

One possible explanation is that gas prices have dropped in the past 30 days. However, the crisis in Iraq could change that. Florida also added jobs in the past year, but they are mostly low paying and associated with leisure and hospitality industries.


The latest mail piece from a mysterious group that calls itself Progressive Choice Florida is a two-fer that attacks both Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic opponent Charlie Crist as “one in the same.”

The allegations in the mailer are that both men oppose health care reform and women’s health care and support the expansion of school vouchers and have appointed conservative judges.

Progressive Choice is thought by some to be a conservative front organization trying to help Democrat Nan Rich gain ground in her primary fight against Crist.

The latest mailer doesn’t mention Rich but says “Florida deserves a real progressive leader!” Progressive Choice is run by a Baltimore political consultant, Jamie Fontaine-Gansell, who has told TalkingPointsMemo that the group is a “real deal progressive organization.” Its donors remain a mystery. The group is not required by Florida law to reveal donor information until a month before the election.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Progressive Choice is paying for a racially-tinged radio ad in central Florida that cites Crist’s strong support for the NRA’s political agenda and his support for stricter sentencing laws when he was a Republican governor and state senator.

“It’s time Charlie Crist answer to Floridians for his record, for a lost generation of African-Americans and for trampling on the ideal that the punishment fit the crime,” the spot says.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Nan Rich will be a featured speaker at the Pembroke Pines Democratic Club starting 7 p.m. at the Total Wine, 15980 Pines Blvd. in Pembroke Pines.

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A Miami-Dade grand jury accused state child welfare administrators of “intentionally and deliberately” manipulating the investigation of child deaths due to abuse and neglect — making it appear that fewer children were dying across the state.

In a 30-page report that explores whether the Department of Children & Families has improved since the shocking 2011 death of 10-year-old Nubia Barahona, grand jurors found much that pleased them. But they also scolded the agency for what they described as a systematic attempt to conceal the true number of children whose lives are cut short by abuse or neglect.

Every person on the grand jury, the report said, “concluded that each of these preventable deaths occurred due to the neglect of each child’s parent(s),” the report said. “We are at an utter loss to understand how those who labor in the field of child protection and child welfare could intentionally and deliberately find that these deaths were not verified as acts of neglect.”

Changes in the way DCF investigates and discloses child death information, grand jurors wrote, left a cloud hanging over the agency, even as administrators tout reforms. “The public does not have confidence in the accuracy of the number of child deaths reported,” the report said, adding: “Aside from being misleading, reported reductions in the total number of deaths may only be a consequence of changing the definitions of abuse and neglect.”

That report criticized DCF for its “utter failure to have the full picture” of parents accused of wrongdoing, and suggested the agency was beset by “a persistent, insidious bias of trust. Here, these two factors combined to exponentially raise the risk of disaster,” the report concluded. “Murder was the result.”


Attorney General bondi, whose strong defense of the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage in federal court has already prompted sharp criticism, is moving to defend the ban in two other lawsuits pending in state courts.

Bondi’s office filed motions to intervene in lawsuits that had been filed by gay couples in Miami-Dade and Monroe circuit courts.

Allen Winsor, the state’s solicitor general, states in the motions that Florida has a legitimate interest in intervening in the cases since both challenge the 2008 constitutional amendment that banned gay marriage.

Bondi is already defending the state against a federal lawsuit filed in north Florida that maintains the ban discriminates against gay couples by not recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal.

Bondi’s recent court filing in the federal lawsuit triggered a firestorm because her office contended that overturning the existing ban would disrupt Florida’s existing marriage laws and “impose significant public harm.”

The backlash prompted Bondi to issue a lengthy statement in which she maintained she had a duty to defend the amendment, which passed by a wide margin six years ago.

One of the two lawsuits filed in state courts was filed in January on behalf of six gay couples by Equality Florida Institute Inc., a civil rights organization that works for fairness for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The lawsuit claims Florida’s gay marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.

DEM REAXAfter the initial backlash to her bigoted comments, Bondi insisted that she was just doing her job. Now it is clear that Bondi is waging an ideologically charged war against LGBT Floridians, going out of her way to waste taxpayer dollars in an effort to stop Floridians from enjoying the same rights as their fellow citizens. Floridians overwhelmingly agree that love is love, and for Bondi to continue to waste taxpayer dollars in an effort to shore up her Tea Party credentials during her reelection campaign is simply unconscionable. Floridians deserve an Attorney General that will fight for them — not a bigoted, self-interested politician like Pam Bondi,” said Florida Democratic Party Political Director Christian Ulvert.


The unprecedented rulings keep on coming. A divided Florida Supreme Court agreed to hear the question of whether 537 pages of documents of political consultant Pat Bainter should have been introduced in a lawsuit by a coalition of voters groups challenging the state’s congressional redistricting maps.

In a 5-2 decision, the court said it would decide the case at the urging of the appeals court last week. It ordered that briefs be filed on a schedule, concluding on July 31. The majority offered no reason for its decision but Chief Justice Ricky Polston, who was joined in the dissent by Justice Charles Canady, scolded the other justices for accepting the case.

The challenge to the state’s congressional districts was brought by a coalition of voting groups led by the League of Women Voters. Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis is expected to rule on the case any day. The parties submitted their final arguments to Lewis nearly two weeks ago, but the fate of 537 pages of documents produced by Bainter and his Gainesville-based consulting firm, Data Targeting, Inc., remains in dispute.

Bainter claims the documents — emails, proposed maps and other communications — are trade secrets and releasing them in the redistricting dispute violates his First Amendment rights. Lewis ordered the documents sealed unless they were admitted as evidence in the case.

Bainter appealed Lewis’ ruling, and the First District Court of Appeals issued a temporary stay, which kept the documents under seal and forced the closure of the trial to the public when Bainter was called to testify.

This is the second time that the precedent-setting redistricting case has clearly exposed the divides within the courts.


CITIZENS BOARD TO TALK: The Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors will meet. The board’s committees also will hold a series of meetings Tuesday. 

EDUCATION NUMBERS DISCUSSED: The Education Estimating Conference will discuss what is known as the public schools “capital outlay full-time equivalent” enrollment numbers.117 Knott Building, the Capitol. 9 a.m.

LONG-TERM CARE AT ISSUE: The Agency for Health Care Administration will hold a rule-development meeting to discuss how to prioritize people for placement on a waiting list for the Medicaid long-term care program and subsequent enrollment. Agency for Health Care Administration, 2727 Mahan Dr., Tallahassee. 1 p.m.

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TOUGHER HIT-AND-RUN PUNISHMENT SIGNED INTO LAW via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

Gov. Scott signed a bill that cracks down on hit-and-run drivers in the wake of a 2012 fatal wreck in Miami. The bill (SB 102/HB183) is called the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act, named after a 35-year-old South Florida man killed in 2012 while bicycling.

The measure’s supporters — including Attorney General Pam Bondi and state Rep. Bryan Nelson said it would equalize the prison sentence for leaving the scene of a fatal accident with the punishment for DUI manslaughter.

Florida law currently allows briefer prison terms for those who flee a crash. The bill also would bump up minimum sentences for both offenses to four years.

The bill also would require that the convicted drivers have their licenses suspended for a minimum of three years.

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SPOTTED: Sens. Andy Gardiner, Joe Negron, Garrett Richter, Tom Lee, Anitere Flores, and Bill Galvanao, as well as lobbyists Travis Blanton, Hayden Dempsey, Jon Johnson, and David Ramba at Pebble Beach fundraiser for Senate’s campaign arm.


Incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli is backing three Republicans who have contested primaries as they look to enter the Florida House: Chris Latvala, Rene “Coach P” Plasencia and Bill Young.

Latvala is running against Christopher Shepard in the Republican primary to replace term-limited Rep. Ed Hooper. Plasencia is battling Ed Rodriguez in the Republican primary with the winner taking on Rep. Joe Saunders. Young, the son and namesake of the late, longtime U.S. Rep. Bill Young, faces Joshua Black in the Republican primary to see who challenges Rep. Dwight Dudley.

Crisafulli has waded into competitive primaries before, backing former Rep. Brad Drake over Jan Hooks in the Republican primary to replace term-limited Rep. Marti Coley and Chris Sprowls over Debbie Faulkner to challenge Rep. Carl Zimmerman. The incoming speaker has also backed former Rep. Scott Plakon who is running against Rep. Mike Clelland, but he is the only Republican in the contest.

“These six leaders will have a lot of momentum going into November and will help form the foundation for a strong Republican majority after Election Day,” said Crisafulli.

LAW SCHOOL GRAD TAKES ON INCUMBENT STATE REP. via Dan Sweeny of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

Joshua Izaak, who in May graduated law school at the University of Florida, plans to take the bar exam this February and start his career as a lawyer. If he has his way, though, whoever hires him will have to give him a few months leave in spring to go to Tallahassee.

The 25-year-old Democrat is running for the state House.

I’ve always been interested in politics,” said Izaak, who has interned with congressmen Ted Deutch and Robert Wexler and worked at the Democratic National Committee. “I’ve grown up in this area.”

To do so, Izaak will have to defeat incumbent state Rep. Kevin Rader, in the primary on Aug. 26. There is no Republican running, so the winner will go to the state House.

A win for Izaak will be no easy task. Rader has won primaries against experienced, well-funded opponents in 2008, 2010 and 2012. The 2008 and 2012 wins carried him on to the state House, though he lost the 2010 general election. This year, Rader has raised about $72,000 to Izaak’s $4,000.

“I don’t really concentrate on my opponent that much,” Rader said. “I just worry about helping my constituents and re-election will take care of itself.”

But not Izaak. He has been campaigning hard since September.


The 30-second ad from the former Bay County School Board member and current Bay County GOP state committeewoman highlights her efforts to keep “Christian morals in our curriculum and liberal agendas out.”

The TV ad talks about Rohan’s conservative roots, family values and a few of her specific achievements in education, including the effort to bring a statewide initiative against Common Core educational standards.

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This may not be new news to Florida, as Justin Sayfie has been lobbying for Google, Inc., since the second quarter of 2010. And certainly in Washington, Google has been a powerhouse for some time. But four years later, Google’s presence in state-level politics has stirred up rather quickly.

POLITICO reported this week on Google’s deployment of lobbyists into state capitols — in California, Oregon, Arizona, Texas, Kansas, Utah, Georgia, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and pretty much anywhere else that its many interests have play. Among Google’s state-level legislative foci: paving the way for Google Fiber, which it intends to hardwire into population centers; Google Glass, which has raised plenty of privacy and other such concerns; its autonomous cars, which Florida is indeed a leader in promoting; and the offering of cloud computing services to K-12 educational institutions.


Electra Bustle, Southern Strategy Group: Vigilant Solutions, Inc.

WORTH READING: Johnson & Blanton’s new blog series, #WhyJBFollows

“Lunch with our dear friend and Contribution Link-er Brecht Heuchan is a weekly tradition here at TeamJB.  During one of our most recent outings, an interesting conversation came up on how our paradigms are shaped by who we follow and communicate with on various social media outlets.  On Twitter, for example, we have a choice of who to follow by the click of a button.  I know what you are thinking – no politics while breaking bread but you know we can’t help ourselves.

“This got me kick started into a blog series that examines who we follow and the reasons behind them – #WhyJBFollows.  We will run a new Twitter handle each Monday for the next few months, maybe more, maybe less.  We hope this helps you gain insight on some of our timeline influencers that we think are follow worthy.

“Coming to a Twitter timeline Monday, June 30th…”

***The Public Affairs Consultants Team of Jack Cory, Keyna Cory and Erin Daly Ballas guide their clients through the legislative, state agency and local government process. They do so by providing governmental consulting, lobbying and professionally coordinated grassroots programs for businesses, professionals, non-profits, local governments and associations. Recently named a Leading Association LobbyistThey Cover Florida Like the Sun.***


On Context Florida: Forty-five legislative districts in Florida will feature coronations rather than elections come November. Daniel Tilson sees those uncontested elections as both unacceptable and un-American. Bob Sparks points out that between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Sunday, Republicans, Democrats and independents were cheering the United States men’s soccer (football, if you will) team against Portugal in the 2014 World Cup. Strong leadership often makes the difference between success and failure, says Dominic Calabro, and the state is all too familiar with failure in the arena of technology management. In an age where governments and the mass media embrace liberal political correctness to frame our governance, news and events, Steve Kurlander notes a corresponding demand to be bland. Cases in point are the push to change the name of the Washington Redskins, and the backlash against George Will after he wrote against recent federal pronouncements about the need for better protection against sexual assaults on American campuses.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Are you curious to see a map of the U.S. light up in blue and red (and a few blips of yellow or green) in a time-progressed .gif of 100 years in American politics? You’re in luck. A research aide at Arizona State University’s Decision Theater, Jonathan Davis, compiled data on party control by Congressional district from 1918 to 2012, color coded it all, and animated. The end result is a fascinating shortcut that describes the waves of political affiliation that have defined electoral politics over time. What begins as a blue south and red north, becomes swiss-cheesy by the mid-1960s. The South didn’t turn predominantly red, really, until the mid-1990s. In Florida, the first red county appeared in Tampa Bay around 1956. Then the region reverted back to blue six years later while a red blip emerged on the Treasure Coast. The final Florida image appears Republican-leaning in all but a few spots. (But highly populated spots they are!)


Last month was so hot it set a new record for the planet, marking the warmest May over land and water since record-keeping began in 1880, US authorities said this week. The combined average temperature across the globe was 59.93°F (15.54°C), or 1.33°F (0.74°C) above the 20th century average, said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The previous record for May was set in 2010.

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.