Sunburn for 6/4 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

***Sunburn is sponsored by Tucker/Hall – one of Florida’s leading public affairs and public relations firms.***


The Obama administration’s announcement of new regulations on power plants does not mean that it has saved the planet. It does not even mean that we have necessarily bought time to save the planet. It means, simply, that Obama has done everything within his power to fight the most urgent crisis of our time. That is to say, he has put in place a climate-change policy agenda that is likely, though not assured, to be regarded as a historic success.

The target that the regulations are intended to hit would mean that the United States has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels. That is the reduction target the United States promised at the 2009 Copenhagen summit. If achieved, most observers believe it would give the United States a strong (though far from certain) chance to persuade China and other countries to enter an international carbon treaty.

Such a treaty would not end or even contain the threat of climate change for all time; it would, however, contain the damage and buy time for a transition to a de-carbonized energy economy. The cuts are necessary but not sufficient to sign the treaty, and the treaty is necessary but not sufficient to spare future generations the worst disasters.

On the other hand, it understates Obama’s contributions, the impact of which are only beginning to appear. Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has essentially banned the construction of any new coal power plants and imposed stringent new fuel-economy standards that will dramatically shrink the carbon footprint of American transportation. The stimulus has spurred advancements in wind and, especially, solar energy, the latter of which is in the midst of a revolution of affordability and growth:

Regulating existing power plants is the final piece of the agenda, completing the task Obama set out for himself at the outset of his presidency.

MIAMI DROPS BID FOR 201G DNC via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

If Hillary Clinton becomes the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, she won’t be accepting her party’s nomination in Miami.

Organizers putting together a bid to host the Democratic National Convention at downtown’s American Airlines Arena — an event with a $50 million price tag for local governments — have recommended withdrawing from the process. They cited too short a time frame to put a winning proposal together.

In an email sent last week to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, organizers Freddy Balsera, a political consultant and publicist, and Bill Talbert, head of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Miami would be at a disadvantage because it began preparing its bid too late.

The request for proposals sent by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat and chair of the national party, required host cities to include a line or letter of credit for up to $20 million to cover potential funding shortfalls.

In addition, hotels taking part would have to commit most or all of their rooms and suites for the event, and AAA and the Miami Beach Convention Center would have to provide unlimited access for eight weeks prior to the convention, whose date has yet to be set.

Fourteen cities, including Orlando, New York and Las Vegas, were also invited to bid, though Orlando has also dropped out.


Cassandra Anne Lafser, City of Orlando public information officer, said in an email: “The 2016 conference dates are not a good fit for our community due to our already high tourism numbers in the summer months when many of our venues and hotel rooms are already booked out and at capacity.”


Sen. Rubio is out of step with the public on his doubts of man’s contribution to climate change, a new poll shows.

Public Policy Polling shows voters by a 56 percent to 33 percent margin trust scientists more than Rubio.

“Rubio starts out trailing Hillary Clinton by a 49/42 spread in a hypothetical match up anyway, and when respondents were informed about Rubio’s stance on climate change it pushed Clinton’s lead up to 9 points at 50/41,” reads a PPP release. “That’s a wider margin than Barack Obama won either of his elections by.”

The poll was commissioned by the liberal Americans United for Change.

READY FOR RUBIO? BUY THIS T-SHIRT via Beth Reinhard of the Wall Street Journal

Sen. Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban-American immigrants, rarely makes a speech without invoking “the American Dream.”  That iconic image is likely to be the leading narrative of his presidential campaign if he runs in 2016. And what better way to trademark that image than to put it on a T-shirt?

For $29, donors to the Florida senator’s leadership PAC will receive a T-shirt adorned with a bald eagle that reads, “The American Dream. Believe in it. Marco Rubio’s Reclaim America PAC.” Consumers are encouraged to wear their new fashion/political statement on the Fourth of July, though the T-shirt is a not-quite-summer-ready black.

This is not Rubio’s first foray into product placement. After he awkwardly reached off camera for a water bottle during his response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech last year, his leadership PAC started selling – you guessed it – Rubio-branded water bottles for $25. (Speaking of the American Dream, what is it if not the chance to turn a nationally televised gaffe into a money-making venture?)

With hope, change and a memorable graphic by Shepard Fairey, the Obama campaign and supporters took the marketing of a presidential candidate to new heights.  No doubt, Mr. Rubio and other potential candidates in 2016 will be picking up the torch. The “Ready for Hillary” super PAC, which is trying to draft Hillary Clinton into the race, is hocking an extensive product line that includes dog collars, champagne glasses, neon-colored Sharpies – and of course, water bottles and T-shirts.

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The Republican Party of Florida is criticizing Charlie Crist for blocking some education cuts while he was governor.

The party sent out a press release comparing Crist’s record on education to incumbent Gov. Rick Scott.

That release faulted Crist for his vetoes of education spending during his first year in office. But the release also listed what it called additional education vetoes from 2009.

It turns out, however, Crist wasn’t cutting education spending that year.

Crist was actually vetoing cuts approved by the Legislature during a special session. Lawmakers were forced to approve cuts because state revenue was dropping during the recession.

Crist in his 2009 veto message wrote that he could not go along with cuts to Florida’s most vulnerable residents.


Republicans are fine-tuning their attack lines to use against Crist on the campaign trail this summer and fall. The strategy was in full bloom in Panama City, where Gov. Scott held a small business campaign event.

“So three guys walk into a bar — a Republican, an independent and a Democrat,” said Rep. Jimmy Patronis. “What does the bartender say? ‘Hey, Charlie!'”

Senate President Don Gaetz repeatedly called Crist a “liar,” and said: “He’s lying to the Democrats … We have a guy who’s running on the Democratic ticket whose idea of a moral compass is a wet finger in the wind.” Gaetz predicted the Panhandle will give Crist “the worst drubbing” he’ll receive in the November election in any part of Florida.

Panama City car dealer Bill Cramer Jr., the son and namesake of the former congressman from St. Petersburg, publicly apologized for having supported Crist in a series of statewide races over 14 years when Crist was a Republican. “Charlie Crist is a chameleon who changes his colors to match whatever political environment advances his career,” Cramer said.

Standing with Scott in Panama City was Guy Tunnell, a Bay County commissioner who quit under pressure as FDLE commissioner during Jeb Bush’s administration after criticism of his handling of the death of a teenager in a boot camp. Tunnell also made remarks that compared black leaders to Osama Bin Laden and Jesse James. Asked if he had misgivings about sharing a stage with Tunnell, Scott said: “I’m appreciative when local elected officials support me.”


Less than a day after signing the state’s record $77 billion election-year budget, Gov. Scott’s campaign released an infographic that attempts to compare the records of the Republican incumbent and his likely Democratic opponent.

The illustration — called “Florida’s Budget Bounce Back” — hits the former Republican governor on his budgets, as well as taxes, debt, revenue and waste.

Among the claims made in the infographic, Crist raised taxes by $2.2 billion, debt by $5.2 billion and left a $3.6 billion shortfall. In contrast, Scott “cut taxes 40 times, cut debt by $3.6 billion and created a $1.2 billion surplus.”

“Our state has turned around … We have more jobs,” Scott said in a statement. “We’ve gotten more people back to working. We’ve strengthened our investments.”


When Gov. Scott vetoed $69 million in spending from next year’s budget, it struck most as a small figure. Turns out, it’s even smaller than that.

Included in the veto number is the Legislature’s attempt to sweep $10 million from the Department of Economic Opportunity’s State Economic Enhancement and Development Trust Fund into general revenue.

The veto does not axe $10 million in spending; it vetoes that sweep, but keeps the money in the economic development trust fund to be spent by the department.

The trust fund was created by the Legislature in 2011 to provide funding for transportation, affordable housing programs, and economic development incentives, among other things. It is housed within the Department of Economic Opportunity, which is overseen by Scott’s office.

“The State Economic Enhancement and Development Trust Fund should be used for its intended purpose of helping create an environment where Florida businesses can continue to create jobs and opportunities for Florida Families,” said John Tupps, a Scott spokesperson.

The trust fund is funded through real estate taxes, local support, and sweeps from other trust funds. It currently has a balance of $33 million. During the current fiscal year, it’s estimated to bring in $141 million.

Last year, Scott vetoed a $24.9 million sweep of the trust fund, which is set to expire in June of next year.

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Florida State University is planning to resume a wide open search for its next president.

The chairman of the FSU search committee announced Tuesday evening that he wants to postpone an interview with State Sen. John Thrasher and set a deadline for other candidates to apply.

The search committee last month decided to interview Thrasher first and decide whether to offer him the job. The move was made because FSU was having trouble attracting other candidates.

But over the weekend, Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston applied for the position.

Ed Burr, an FSU trustee who is leading the search, said he is now “optimistic” that FSU can conduct a normal presidential search.


Senate President Gaetz has recommended that Sen. Thrasher be the next head of Florida State University.

Gaetz said that Thrasher’s political leadership, intellectual rigor and “vibrant curiosity” makes him the “obvious President to lead Florida State University.”

Gaetz added that although Thrasher, whom he considers a friend, would be an “unconventional” choice for FSU, somewhat similar to the selection of Judy Bense to lead the University of West Florida, he would – like Bense — be a “far, far better president.”

“He has devoted his professional life to public service and the law,” Gaetz writes. “But if that were a disqualifier, then America’s greatest public university, the University of Virginia, could not have been founded and managed by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe.

Among Thrasher’s qualifications, Gaetz noted that it is his record and career that provides ample evidence that Thrasher is the right person for the job, including expertly managing vast, complex organizations in the private and public sectors.


A former member of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority will plead guilty to violating Florida’s Sunshine Law in return for cooperating with the state attorney’s office in its investigation of the agency.

State Attorney Jeff Ashton announced that Peña provided additional sworn testimony, and would be available to testify before the grand jury.

In return, Peña will plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of violating the Sunshine Law, and will pay a fine of $500. He will not serve jail time or probation.

Peña resigned from the board in May amidst the investigation. He cited personal reasons for resigning, but the state attorney’s office was already investigating him, Noranne Downs and Scott Batterson.

Batterson was indicted on felony bribery charges in April and was suspended by Gov. Scott. Batterson and Peña were both appointed by Scott to serve on the board.

Scott recently signed a law that would dissolve the expressway authority and create a new, regional transportation agency.

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Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) President Matt Walter, on behalf of the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (RLCC), welcomed Florida Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto to the 2014 RLCC Executive Committee. The Executive Committee is comprised of top leadership in statehouses across the nation and helps guide the RLCC’s efforts to defend and expand Republican state-level gains.  Currently, Republicans hold 59 of 99 legislative chambers nationwide.

“We appreciate her continued commitment to growing the Republican Party in the states and her service on the ‘Right Women, Right Now’ Advisory Board, as we recruit over 300 first-time women candidates to run and win as Republicans,” said Walter. “We thank Senator Benacquisto for her service to the RLCC and look forward to working with her to enact conservative, pro-business policies in Tallahassee and in statehouses across the nation.”

“The RLCC is an exceptional organization that brings together state legislative leaders from across the country to collaborate on best practices as we fight for lower taxes, personal freedoms and strong families,” Benacquisto said. “I thank the RLCC for the opportunity to serve, for their commitment to growing the Republican Party from the ground up and for their ongoing support for state-level leaders and citizens.”


For the first time ever, the Miami-Dade Democratic Party is challenging every single Republican State House seat in Miami-Dade County.

“It is time that the Republicans get a clear message: No more free rides,” said Miami-Dade Democratic Party chair Annette Taddeo-Goldstein. “After the catastrophic failure of Republican legislators to put Florida’s people first this year, voters deserve a Democratic choice on the ballot. Many of these incumbents have never even faced a challenger before. Not anymore.”

Candidates will file to run in each of the seven State House districts currently without Democratic challengers.

“We know this will be an uphill battle, but it’s a necessary one. We couldn’t be more excited to offer voters of Miami-Dade a better choice than the status quo — and to hold the Republican incumbents accountable for their lack of leadership on issues important to their constituents,” said Juan Cuba, Executive Director of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party and candidate for House District 116.

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One of the better stories in a while about local lobbying in which a water company lobbyist pulls the fire alarm during a town meeting vote.

PREVIEW OF #8 ON SSN’S LISTSmith, Bryan & Myers

With a team of six lobbyists and over 30 years of experience, Tallahassee-based Smith, Bryan & Myers has built a strong reputation on proactive, client-oriented service, ranking the firm No. 8 on Sunshine State News’ list of Top Lobbyists in the Sunshine State.


I’ve never made it a secret my long-distance man-crush on lobbyist Jon Costello, so it shouldn’t surprise readers that I try to stay up-to-date on what he is up to (that’s not creepy, is it?)

Two interesting data points about Costello arrived in my in-box and both are worth sharing.

The first is a new lobbying registration for Costello and his colleague Gary Rutledge. They are now reppin’ Sanctuary Cannabis LLC, which is registered to Alan Perlman and Robert McKee.

In anticipation of the passage of the medical marijuana amendment, Sanctuary Cannabis is positioning itself to be one of the companies with the expertise and financial wherewithal to build the needed infrastructure for what is expected to be a booming industry. 

In addition to hiring Costello and Rutledge, Sanctuary Cannabis has also retained Democratic operative Steve Schale.

The second data point about Costello may be more interesting than a single lobbying registration. He, along with Rutledge and other investors, are going into the restaurant business.

Costello and Co. are bringing a Tucker Duke’s Lunchbox to the downtown space formerly occupied by Po’ Boys.

According to Tucker Duke’s Lunchbox’s website, the resto is known for its “kick ass burgers and southern comfort food served up with a side of sass.” Tucker Duke’s is the brain child of recent Food Network “Cutthroat Kitchen” winner & Florida native, Chef Brian Cartenuto.

New clients, a new restaurant, great hair (oh wait, did I say that aloud) … Jon Costello seems to have it all.

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On Context Florida: As an immigrant, a man of color, Andrew Skerritt discovered Maya Angelou late, not from reading her directly but from hearing her words emanating from the mouths of women to whom Angelou gave voice. Republicans have just discovered poverty and income inequality, which to Stephen Goldstein is a remarkable revelation considering they have caused so much of it. Marco Rubio claims, “That if states were given the flexibility, they would design and pursue innovative and effective ways to help those trapped in poverty.” But don’t believe a word of it. Shannon Nickinson notes that when the First Amendment Foundation publicized its transparency scorecard last month, it found that on average, cities and counties in Florida had lots of room for improvement in sharing the workings of government with the governed. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki succumbed to growing pressure from more than 100 members of Congress of both parties to resign over the systemic failure that reportedly caused inexcusable deaths. Steven Kurlander writes that VA chief had apologized for trusting subordinates and accepting reports that were false, but the problem has always been that the VA health care system does not have enough money to properly attend to the health-care needs of veterans.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Bruce Ritchie, the veteran reporter who has forged one helluva beat covering environmental issues and the politics that go along with them, is joining Context Florida as a contributing writer. While still publishing much of his work to his own must-read blog, Ritchie will be providing a steady stream of original analysis for Context Florida.

Context Florida is the sister site of SaintPetersBlog, serving as an online opinion network dedicated to driving the discussion about the issues, personalities and politics shaping Florida. The analysis and op-eds published on Context Florida, which is helmed by former Cleveland Plain Dealer Managing Editor Thomas O’Hara, are republished in many of the state’s leading newspapers.

Truth be told, the moment I learned that Bruce’s inimitable talents were on the market, I made him an offer. He offers a level of experience and expertise that just can’t be read anywhere else.

Ritchie previously covered growth and environmental issues for the Florida Current, the Tallahassee Democrat and the Gainesville Sun.

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.