Sunburn for 6/9 – 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 brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the state’s dominant public affairs PR firm: Today is Donald Duck Day, commemorating the debut of Donald Duck on June 9, 1934. He was featured in the Silly Symphony cartoon The Wise Little Henand the world has been ducky ever since.


WELCOME TO THE TWITTERS: @CIA – “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.”


J. Stanley Marshall, who was president of Florida State University during one of its most tumultuous periods, died Sunday afternoon.

Marshall, 91, died at his home in Westminster Oaks retirement community. Marshall suffered several cardiac events in recent years, including a heart attack in May. He had been under hospice care.

Marshall was president of FSU from 1969 to 1976. After his presidency, he founded and operated an electronic security company, Sonitrol (1978-1987); ran unsuccessfully for state education commissioner (1986); and founded the James Madison Institute (1987), a conservative think tank. Marshall served on the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission, the first Board of Trustees for FSU, the Bethune-Cookman University Board of Trustees and the state Board of Governors, which oversees Florida’s 11 state universities

“His legacy is that he was a Renaissance Man,” said Robert McClure, president and CEO of the James Madison Institute. “High school science teacher, university president, business owner, ran for education commissioner, started a statewide think tank with tremendous national influence. A tremendous influence and mentor. And always a gentleman regardless of the political stripe of people he was dealing with. That’s his legacy.”


Dr. Bob McClure: “Honored to have had Dr. Marshall as a mentor & friend. He was loved by so many. I know his legacy will live on.”

Former Speaker of the House Allan Bense: “A mentor, a family man, a future-focused leader, a kind soul — those are only a few words out of so many that describe Dr. Marshall. I was a student at FSU in the 70’s when he was president and under his leadership FSU flourished. To know him as a leader and to then be able to call him a friend is a true honor. He was known by so many across the state and nation for his dedication to the people and causes he cared about. We will all miss him dearly.”


He became the Barry Goldwater and the William Buckley of Florida’s conservative movement. He created a home for conservative political thought in a state that had come to be dominated by men such as Reuben Askew and Lawton Chiles.

Men such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio owe some part of their careers to the path Marshall blazed.

Marshall ran for office himself and lost badly, but proudly, challenging the education establishment he has feuded with his entire career.

But again, it’s not about what Marshall did.

It’s about who he was: a towering man able to move with ease within the worlds of high finance and politics; the most generous of family men, dedicated to his beloved wife, Shirley, and an unequaled intellectual, with a library of letters from Jefferson to Madison, who also hosted conferences for Margaret Thatcher and Vaclav Havel.

Dr. J. Stanley Marshall built a legacy by defying expectations.

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There are few places in the nation more vulnerable to rising sea levels than low-lying South Florida, a tourist and retirement mecca built on drained swampland.

Yet as other coastal states and the Obama administration take aggressive measures to battle the effects of global warming, Florida’s top Republican politicians are challenging the science and balking at government fixes.

Among the chief skeptics are U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush, both possible presidential candidates in 2016. Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for re-election, has worked with the Republican-controlled Legislature to dismantle Florida’s fledgling climate change initiatives. They were put into place by his predecessor and current opponent, Democrat Charlie Crist.

“I’m not a scientist,” Scott said, after a federal report pinpointed Florida – and Miami in particular – as among the country’s most at-risk areas.

He and other Republicans warn against what they see as alarmist policies that could derail the country’s tenuous economic recovery.

Their positions could affect their political fortunes.

Democrats plan to place climate change, and the GOP’s skepticism, front and center in a state where the issue is no longer an abstraction.

Their hope is to win over independents and siphon some Republicans, who are deeply divided over global warming. Tom Steyer, a billionaire environmental activist, has pledged to spend $100 million this year to influence seven critical contests nationwide, including the Florida governor’s race.

… Nationally, the issue could prove tricky for Democrats.

Polls show a bipartisan majority of Americans favor measures to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gases, such as the new federal rule to limit carbon emissions from power plants. But they routinely rank climate change far behind the economy, the centerpiece of Scott’s campaign, when prioritizing issues.

… Florida lacks a statewide approach to the effects of climate change, although just a few years ago, it was at the forefront on the issue.

In 2007, Crist, then a Republican, declared global warming “one of the most important issues that we will face this century,” signed executive orders to tighten tailpipe-emission standards for cars and opposed coal-fired power plants.

Bush, his predecessor, had pushed the state during his administration to diversify its energy mix and prioritize conservation.

Even Rubio, who was then Florida House speaker and a vocal critic of Crist’s climate plans, supported incentives for renewable energy. With little opposition, the GOP-led Legislature passed a bill that laid the groundwork for a California-style cap-and-trade system to cut carbon emissions and created a special commission to study climate change.

But the efforts sputtered as the economy collapsed and Crist and Rubio faced off in a divisive 2010 Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

Although Rubio had voted for Crist’s landmark environmental measure, he soon hammered the governor for what he called a “cap-and-trade scheme.” Seeking support from the growing tea party movement, he distanced himself from the vote.

Rubio also began to voice doubts about whether climate change is man-made, a doubt he shares with Bush. Both have stuck to that position.

Amid meetings with conservative activists and Republican leaders in New Hampshire last month, Rubio said: “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.” Proposals to cut carbon emissions, he said, would do little to change current conditions but “destroy our economy.” Rubio later said he supports mitigation measures to protect coastal property from natural disasters.

Scott and Florida Republicans share his current views.

A VOTE ON IMMIGRATION? via David Eldridge of Roll Call

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart says momentum is growing in the House for action on immigration — despite some tough election-year rhetoric recently from fellow Republicans and what the Florida congressman considers ill-advised threats of unilateral action by President Barack Obama.

Diaz-Balart, a major player in the effort on Capitol Hill to produce a bipartisan overhaul of the nation’s immigration system, told CQ Roll Call Tuesday he has more supporters now than a month ago and still expects the Republican-controlled House to act before leaving town in August.

“Every day I’m getting more and more Republicans — conservatives — who are frankly approaching me saying, ‘How do we move forward?’ I feel very very confident that a majority — a strong majority — of Republicans want to finally tackle this system that everyone understands is broken — with some caveats,” he said in a phone interview. “Republicans are insisting that we take this step-by-step.”

The Miami congressman said recent attempts by Obama to facilitate the process in the House are not helpful.

The Pentagon announced last week it is putting on hold, at the request of the White House, a proposal that would have provided legal status to some illegal immigrants who enlist in the military.

Obama has vowed to take more sweeping unilateral action on immigration if Congress doesn’t act, but is delaying the Pentagon move to give congressional Republicans more time to produce a legislative solution.

Thanks, but no thanks, said Diaz-Balart.


Gov. Scott is taking his campaign message of lower college tuition costs on the road.

On Monday, Scott kicks off the College Affordability Tour, a campaign swing across Florida to sound off about his reversal of “burdensome” tuition hikes, many of which signed into law by his predecessor Crist.

The weeklong statewide tour features Rick Scott trumpeting a number of his efforts in higher education: to keep college affordable, reduce the cost of Florida Prepaid savings plans, provide in-state tuition for veterans, and work with Florida state colleges to offer degrees that cost $10,000.

In a dig against his likely Democratic opponent, Scott added it was important to “reverse Charlie Crist’s 15 percent tuition hike and give every student who grows up in Florida the chance to pursue an affordable college education.”

Rick Scott and his College Affordability Tour heads to Boca Raton, Fort Myers, Miami, Orlando, and Pensacola.

TWEET, TWEET: @fineout: .@FLGovScott expected to sign the in-state tuition bill on Monday that allows undocumented HS students to pay same rate as other residents


With high-definition Canon video cameras, the political operatives have traveled tens of thousands of miles in the past year, recording every Scott speech, event and interaction with reporters, feeding it to The Vault, a colossal database housed in an office building in Washington.

The two full-time staffers for American Bridge don’t ever confront Scott, but they have complicated life for the Republican seeking re-election in November, amplifying his propensity to evade questions, generating news coverage with their video clips and backing up state Democrats who will be outspent by Scott and the GOP.

“Tracking” is not a new phenomenon in politics yet the liberal American Bridge is injecting it with steroids — 42 staffers in 38 states have traveled more than 487,000 miles this election cycle — and carving a new trail in opposition research.

The effort represents another turn in the fast-moving trend of outside groups and money in elections.

American Bridge’s video archive has 54,000 clips so far; more than 2,200 of those are related to Scott.

An online calendar contains events for dozens of political targets so daily decisions can be made to dispatch trackers, usually young people getting a start in politics. They are instructed not to ask questions or to provoke, unlike the in-your-face brand of tracking waged in some political circles. The trackers must contend with opponents who try to block their view, mess up their audio or have them tossed out of events.

But The Vault keeps getting bigger.

QUOTE OF THE DAY – “Rick Scott’s been the gift that keeps on giving.” — American Bridge president Brad Woodhouse


Gov. Scott’s campaign last week provided a political corollary to Honoré de Balzac’s saying that “behind every great fortune there is a crime.”

Behind every great donor there is a potential crime.

Had Scott’s campaign-finance team realized this, someone might vetted (or Googled) James Batmasian. He pleaded guilty in 2008 to failing to collect and pay $253,000 in federal withholding taxes regarding his Boca Raton investment company’s employees. Batmasian spent eight months in prison, paid a $30,000 fine and had his law license suspended in Florida.

Perfect guy to headline a $10,000-per-donor fundraiser, right?

The Florida Democratic Party thought so.

“Birds of a feather . . . Rick Scott to fundraise with ex-felon tax cheat,” Joshua Karp, the Democrats’ spokesman wrote in a Thursday morning email blast that conflated Batmasian’s past — as first reported by Mother Jones online — and the 1997 record $1.7 billion Medicare-fraud fine paid by Scott’s former hospital company.

Scott quickly pulled the plug on the fundraiser and sought to focus attention on Democratic opponent Charlie Crist’s record as governor, when unemployment and budget shortfalls reached record highs.

HOW CLOSE TO RUNNING WAS BILL NELSON? via Ledyard King for the News-Press

So how close was Nelson to running for governor this year?

Close enough to give it serious thought.

In a revealing interview this week in his office with of Florida reporters, the Democrat from Orlando said he was approached by a “lot of people” asking him to challenge Rick Scott.

At the time, he was telling reporters he had no intention of running. But the former state insurance commissioner conceded it was hard to brush aside what he described as a stream of pressure from supporters and his assessment Scott and his fellow Republicans have helped run the state “into a ditch.”

“When people would come crying on my shoulder: ‘You’re the one that could win,’ and ‘Look at our state,’ that gripped me,” he said. “I wondered what to do.”

Reluctant to jump in the gubernatorial race to begin with, Nelson eventually opted to stay on Capitol Hill because he believes he can do more for Floridians from Washington instead of Tallahassee.

The reason? With Democrat Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia deciding not to run for re-election this year, Nelson is next in line to chair the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, assuming Democrats retain the Senate. The panel has broad jurisdiction his pet program, NASA.

Even if Republicans gain control of the Senate, Nelson will wield influence on the panel. From that perch, he said he hopes to exercise more authority working to combat climate change and the potentially disastrous effects a new White House report says global warming will inflict on his home state.

If he becomes chairman, Nelson will have to negotiate with a Republican House that has not budged much on environmental issues.

Asked if he believed he could do more on the issue as governor, Nelson said he’d run into the same challenges dealing with a GOP-controlled state Legislature.

Nelson demurred when asked what he thought if his party nominates Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist.

“I will enthusiastically support the (Democratic) nominee,” Nelson said. “If he’s the nominee, I will enthusiastically campaign for him.”

GOV. SCOTT’S AD BLITZ AIMS TO HIT CRIST EARLY via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

The opening move in Gov. Scott’s campaign playbook has been to try to spend the enemy into submission.

Since March, the Republican has pumped close to $13 million into the earliest-ever blitz of television attack ads in a Florida gubernatorial contest. The aim is to take enough skin off Democratic challenger Charlie Crist so he can’t fully recover even when his ads kick in sometime after July 4.

Scott is deploying a scattershot approach of attack ads mixed with softer, biographical spots of Scott with one of his grandkids.

More than $6 million in television ads has been steered into the crucial Orlando and Tampa TV markets with 10 ads attacking Crist for tuition hikes, supporting Obamacare and opting to seek the U.S. Senate in 2010 instead of a second term as governor.

Outraised 3-to-1 thus far, Crist’s campaign is calculating that the former GOP governor has enough popularity and name-ID banked with voters to wait out the early barrage.

Scott’s strategy, run mostly by young, out-of-state GOP operatives, is meant to expose Crist’s perceived opportunism and flip-flops. It also is designed to shore up the incumbent governor’s lackluster polling, encourage future donors and bait Crist into spending scarce campaign resources earlier than planned.

Based on the polls, the massive ad buying is paying off.

CHARLIE CRIST’S CUBA, CUBAN VOTER PROBLEM via Marc Caputo and Juan Tamayo of the Miami Herald

Crist has a Cuba problem and a Cuban voter problem, a new Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald poll of Miami-Dade’s electorate shows.

Crist’s headline-grabbing announcement last month that he wants to travel to Cuba has hurt his standing more than it helped in Florida’s most-populous county, with only 5 percent of voters saying they’d be more likely to support him over the issue, while 24 percent say the opposite,according to the survey conducted by Bendixen & Amandi International.

A supermajority, 67 percent, say Crist’s Cuba position makes no difference in their vote between him and Gov. Rick Scott — and that’s despite the poll numbers showing voters by 51-40 percent say they favor Cuba travel for all residents of the United States.

Voters are now also evenly split on whether to continue the five decade-old embargo, an increasingly common position growing in a county that was once a bulwark of hardline sentiment.

Crist is the first major candidate for governor who has called for ending the Cuba travel ban and lifting the embargo, saying it hasn’t worked.

Overall, Crist leads Scott 47-35 percent. But that’s tepid support for Crist in the Democratic bastion.

“Charlie Crist is not where he needs to be if he wants a strong base vote coming out of Miami-Dade County and South Florida by extension,” said Fernand Amandi, who conducted the 400-voter poll for The Herald and El Nuevo Herald last week.

TWEET, TWEET: @FLAFLCIO: Florida AFL-CIO #Cope14 officially endorses @charliecrist to be Florida’s next governor.


“College tuition costs too much. Everybody knows that — well, everyone but Charlie Crist.”

That’s the opening of the latest TV ad for Gov. Scott’s re-election campaign as he seeks to blame the problem on Crist.

If Scott has his way, the increases will be a major issue in the campaign heading into November’s election.

But the reasons for the increases and who’s to blame are more complicated questions than the TV ad suggests.

Both Scott and Crist have overseen university tuition increases as governor, and both have vetoed tuition increases. Experts say tuition has gone up under both men for reasons that would have been tough for any governor to resist.

They include the national economic collapse; tuition that remains comparatively low even after the increases; and, ironically, the Bright Futures scholarship program, which was meant to make college more affordable for Florida families.

Crist oversaw substantial tuition increases during his four years as governor; Scott, after big increases in his first two years, has made determined efforts to hold the line, taking advantage of the improving economy that followed the economic collapse Crist faced.

But Scott has also overseen the first cuts in Bright Futures.

When Crist took office in 2007, higher education advocates believed the state’s university system was seriously underfunded.

At the time, Florida was at or near the bottom nationwide in tuition and fees for its four-year public universities, according to The College Board.

“The argument was made that that situation was artificially restricting our major national institutions by comparison to their peers,” said Mark Walsh, lobbyist and vice president for government relations at the University of South Florida.


West Palm Beach-based Florida Planned Parenthood is stepping up efforts aimed at this fall’s governor’s race, announcing the launch of a “Women are Watching” voter outreach campaign.

“In November, Floridians have an opportunity to elect a governor who supports access to women’s health and move closer to securing a pro-women state legislature,” said Lillian A. Tamayo, chair of the Florida Planned Parenthood PAC.

“The campaign will hold Tallahassee politicians accountable for the wave of anti-women’s health legislation we’ve seen in recent years by talking with voters about the impact of these policies and motivating them to get out the vote in support of women’s health.”

Planned Parenthood has not endorsed in the governor’s race, saying it is awaiting results of the primary between leading Democrats Charlie Crist and Nan Rich.

But the organization has clashed with Gov. Scott over women’s health and access to abortion legislation which he has signed into law. In the legislative session that ended last month, three new abortion-related bills were approved and are expected to be endorsed by Scott.

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Gov. Scott said he will review a controversial abortion measure sent to his desk last week, but would not say if it has his support.

The bill, HB 1047, redefines the definition of a viable fetus. The new definition says a fetus is viable if it has a reasonable chance of surviving outside of the womb under “standard medical measures.” The change means that abortion could be ban after 20 weeks, four weeks earlier than the current ban.

“He will review this legislation and take action within the deadline now that the bill has reached his desk,” said spokesman John Tupps, who noted Scott is pro-life.

It’s the boilerplate answer given by Scott’s office when asked about most bills passed by lawmakers.

The abortion bill, sponsored by state Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, was one of 105 sent to Scott for his signature. When the Legislature formally sends Scott a bill he has 15-days to act or the bill becomes law.


Slightly over half of Florida students have passed the state’s standardized math and reading exams.

Fifty-eight percent of third through eighth-grade students passed the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test in reading, up one percent from the previous year, the Department of Education announced. Fifty-six percent of third through eighth-grade students passed the math test, the same as in 2013.

In science, fifty-four percent of fifth-grade students passed, up one percent from last year. Forty-nine percent of eighth-grade students passed the science test, a two-point increase.

This year marks the last administration of the FCAT. Students will take a new exam aligned with the Common Core standards next year. The new benchmarks have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. They were developed by a coalition of state officials and education leaders and are designed to prepare students for college and the workforce.

In Florida, the standards underwent some tweaks after hearings were held around the state, fielding more than 19,000 comments from teachers, parents and others.

The test results showed continuing disparities in performance along the lines of race, ethnicity, disability and English language learner status.

Sixty-nine percent of white third through eighth-grade students performed at a passing level or higher on the reading exam, compared to 54 percent of Hispanic students and 38 percent of black students.


In the early stages of redistricting, Republican members of Florida’s congressional delegation and their top staffers lobbied Gov. Scott’s administration to take a leadership role in the process.

… As the redistricting process began with 2010 census data, uneasy members of Congress were concerned that no one was informing them about how the GOP-led Legislature was preparing to redraw the congressional maps, which the governor signs into law.

“The point they wanted to get across is that no one in the state is organizing and communicating with Florida congressional chiefs of staff, and they are encouraging the governor to be the leader in the redistricting effort,” wrote Brian McManus, then the head of Scott’s Washington office, in a February 2011 email to Mary Anne Carter, then a top Scott administration official.

Carter responded the following day.

“Would be a good idea to have the governor meet with the FL delegation to solely discuss redistricting. This is a big deal,” she wrote. “To date, I don’t think we have a strategy.”

… McManus’ email suggests there was a sense among Republican members of the Florida delegation … that Scott himself should get involved. They were concerned at the time about some specific political issues: the 2012 Republican National Convention being held in Tampa and the 2014 mid-term elections.

Maps should be in place “so that Florida looks good at the 2012 convention, that the congressional districts are in place and solid after 2012 leading into 2014,” the email read.

McManus also said he needed “some direction” prior to attending the monthly meeting of the Florida Republican chiefs of staff and that “redistricting is the subject.”

NO ‘SMOKING GUN,’ BUT BAFFLING MAP IGNORANCE via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

Florida’s high-stakes redistricting trial may not have exposed a “smoking gun” that Republican legislators intentionally gerrymandered when they re-drew the state’s political geography two years ago.

But the trial did televise a flabbergasting cocoon of ignorance that lawmakers claimed to have kept themselves in during such an historic process. House speakers and Senate presidents claimed to have no knowledge of how line shifts could help or hurt incumbents.

One Senate staff director who has overseen decades of redistricting, John Guthrie, testified he had no idea that packing more African-Americans into U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown’s Jacksonville-to-Orlando district would make it a safer seat. The same staffer, and the same politicians, staged public workshops with the redistricting software the prior summer for the express purpose of debunking the Fair Districts amendments by showing you couldn’t shift lines without helping or hurting someone.

However, this firewall of information asymmetry didn’t keep out the political consultants – present at the public meetings, chatting with lawmakers routinely on the sidelines – who worked for the lawmakers, had information on the maps and were busily drawing and sharing minority districts.

Other consultants – Pat Bainter and Gainesville-based Data Targeting – have sued to keep their records and testimony under seal. The public and media had to leave the court when he testified.

Former Rep. Steve Precourt — the Orlando Republican who on Jan. 27, 2012, offered a now famous Precourt amendment bumping Brown’s district to about 50 percent black, voting-age population — said in a deposition that he had no specific knowledge of what the amendment did.


On good days when her epileptic seizures aren’t severe, RayAnn Moseley laughs, dances and sings with a children’s choir. On bad days, RayAnn lies down and says nothing all day and sometimes has to be rushed to a hospital.

Florida lawmakers say RayAnn’s struggle went a long way in swaying them to approve a state bill that would allow parents to treat their epileptic children with marijuana that has a low amount of THC, the chemical that causes intoxication.

Even Gov. Rick Scott welcomed RayAnn into his office, hugged her and assured her parents he would sign the bill that seemed improbable a few months ago.

Once Scott signs the bill, strains of marijuana with little THC and high amounts of cannabidiol used for treating seizures, would be legal in Florida for certain medical conditions.


Over the years, state Sen. ee hasn’t been shy about challenging his fellow legislators when he thinks they can do a better job.

At a Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon, Lee appeared ready to challenge lawmakers again, this time about the process of adding amendments to existing bills.

Lee called for reform in the bill-making process after an audience member brought up the fact that this year’s legislature passed the fewest amount of bills in Florida’s history.

“We may be passing the fewest numbers of bills, but we’re passing the longest trains,” Lee said. “When issues are added to those pieces of legislation as they move through the process that are substantive in nature, they ought to be referred back to the original committee … not be allowed to be added later in the process.”

Lee, who served in the senate for 10 years before taking office again in 2012, said he began noticing the problem during last year’s session.

The problem with adding substantive changes later on in the process, Lee said, is that it eliminates a stage of transparency and accountability when those changes aren’t vetted by a committee.

Part of the issue is a byproduct of term limits, he said. New legislators don’t have the institutional knowledge to realize this isn’t how the process has to work.

TWEET, TWEET: @RepDanaYoung: Musings on this 64oz just filled: 1) is @64ozGrowler more evil than 128? 2)calif < fla regulations = embarrassing.


With a hat-tip to LobbyTools, here is latest on who is on and who is off the legislative staffing merry-go-round.

Off: Michael Flegiel is no longer a staff attorney on the Local and Federal Affairs Committee.

Off: Gregory Fields is out as the legislative assistant for term-limited Rep. Elaine Schwartz.

On: Jennifer Gurland is the new legislative assistant to Rep. Lori Berman.

On: Jared Rosenstein, a former district secretary for Rep. Bill Hager, is the new LA for Rep. Jared Moskowitz.

On: Karen Roe is the new district secretary for Rep. Mark Danish.

Off: Lacy Page has left Rep. Dave Hood’s office.

Off: Karen Ford has left her job as district secretary for Rep. Amanda Murphy.

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House Republican leadership stepped up to the plate in a big way for House District 5 candidate Brad Drake, who raised more than $24,000 last month, bolstered by a substantial boost from the Republican Party of Florida.

The former Republican House representative collected $24,550 in donations in May, giving him a total of $255,955, with more than $165,000 cash-on-hand.

Brad Drake’s May fundraising numbers — topped off by $24,000 from the RPOF — puts him more than $100,000 ahead of his nearest GOP opponent Jan Hooks, whose most recent numbers are pending.


In light of the recent indictments and guilty pleas of former members of the Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority, Republican Mike Miller is calling upon Mo Pearson, his primary opponent in the race for House District 47, to return all campaign contributions connected to the scandal.

Pearson’s camp is labeling the claims “ridiculous.”

Pearson is an environmental consultant whose firm, 3E Consultants, Inc., lists the Expressway Authority as a client. Pearson also applied to serve on the Expressway Authority Board at the same time as Marco Pena, who resigned last month from the board and last week reached a plea agreement with state prosecutors about his role in a conspiracy to subvert Florida’s Sunshine laws.

“Scandals like this destroy the sacred trust between government and the people it serves,” said Miller. “Mo Pearson should immediately return all of the money he’s received in connection with the Orlando Expressway Authority and its indicted board members.”

According to filings submitted to the Florida Department of Elections, Pearson had received at least $7,800 from Expressway Authority members and vendors – including from indicted board members. However, Pearson spokesman Brian Hughes says his candidate has already returned any questionable contributions. Hughes called Miller a “failing candidate.”

“Before Miller’s ridiculous attack, Mo Pearson had already returned contributions from those who stand accused of violating the public trust,” said Hughes. “In fact, Pearson has publicly stated encouragement for Governor Scott to sign the legislation that will alter the Expressway Board and restore accountability and trust to this public entity.”

Responding to Miller’s claim that Pearson continues to retain Pena and his firm Swift Vose Pena, Pearson’s camp says it fired that firm in March and produced a letter of termination as proof.

HOT & FRESH POLLING DATA ON HD 65, 67, & 68 Full blog post here

Pinellas County House Democratic incumbents continue to see robust re-election challenges in November, according to the latest survey by StPetePolls. At the same time, the race for a third open seat has widened by a few points.

In House District 65, Republican first-time candidate Chris Sprowls dipped somewhat in the race against Democratic State Rep.Carl “Z” Zimmerman — 38 to 42% for the incumbent — with 20% undecided.

In April, the race was a virtual tie, with 42% each and 15% undecided.

… House District 68 Democrat Dwight Dudley is still leading first-time Republican candidate Bill Young II, son of the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young. Dudley continues with a six-point advantage in the eastern Pinellas County district, receiving 46% versus Young getting nearly 40%, just under 15% undecided.

April’s poll had Dudley with 44%, Young at 39%, and 17% undecided.

… For the open seat to succeed term-limited Rep. Ed Hooper in House District 67, Chris Latvala has extended his lead to four points over Democrat radio talk show host Shawna Vercher, 43-39%. Back in April, the spread was 41-40%.

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APPOINTED: Bridget Ziegler as a School Board Member of Sarasota County.


Lobbyist David Griffin, who has operated a successful solo consulting firm since leaving government, has felt the lure of collaboration and is bringing his talents — and clients — to GrayRobinson, alongside Fred Leonhardt, Chris Carmody, Robert Stuart and nearly a dozen more capitol insiders.

Griffin brings his 20 years of experience in law, lobbying, and public service, to the firm’s Tallahassee office.

Griffin served as Florida Lottery Secretary under Gov. Jeb Bush; as executive director of the Bush/Brogan 2002 transition office; as a FAMU trustee in 2005; and as assistant executive director and interim executive director of the Ohio Lottery Commission. And that doesn’t include over a dozen other civic roles he has held.

So why the move the GR?

“I’ve known a lot of GrayRobinson folks over the years and I’ve always been impressed by their level of professionalism and the overall culture of the firm. There’s a sense that whoever happens to point on an issue you always have the weight and reach of GR at your disposal and that’s important. That’s a big part of what I’ve stressed to my clients as I’ve talked to them about my move,” Griffin said. “I’ll continue to work with my gaming clients but I have experience in health care, sports, labor and other areas, so I look forward to expanding and growing under GR. It’s an outstanding firm and I’m excited to be there.”


Bradley Cornell: Audubon of the Western Everglades

Richard Fidel, Fred Karlinsky, Colodny Fass Talenfeld Karlinsky Abate & Webb PA: American Modern Insurance Group

David Griffin, GrayRobinson: City of Key West

Jonathan Janeiro: Dade Medical College

Jeff Sharkey, Taylor Biehl, Capitol Alliance Group: Bing Energy International

Karen Walker, Holland & Knight: Patrick K. Willis Company, Inc. d/b/a American Recovery Service


When talking formidable industries in campaign finance, physicians  — and their state and national associations — are big players. A study published this week out of Sanford University offers a different glimpse into how physicians at the individual level have given to federal candidates over the past two decades.

And the results tell an interesting story. In sum, physician contributions increased from $20 million in 1991 to $189 million in 2012. But with this massive 845 percent increase have come a few other changes, too. Since 1996, the ratio of physicians contributing to Republicans has decreased substantially. This is due in large part to an influx of new donors who differ from those who had donated in earlier years — namely, more female physicians, pediatricians, and those who practice in non-profit settings.

For example, in the 2011-2012 election cycle, 52 percent of male physicians donated to a Republican candidate while 24 percent of female physicians did so. Likewise, 70 percent of surgeons donated to a Republican while just 22 percent of pediatricians did.

TWEET, TWEET: @BallardFirm: As a valued part of the @BallardFirm team, we offer @ChrisDorworth our support and wish a quick resolution for him. #sayfie

***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.***


On Context Florida: The Florida Constitution now has all the moral weight of a dry-cleaning ticket, says Stephen Goldstein. That is not the way that venerable document is usually perceived or how it is supposed to be perceived. Yet, to be honest, that is just the way it is — or how it has devolved. This June, many have come to recall and honor the sacrifices of those who, 70 years ago, landed both from the ocean and from the air on Normandy Beach during D-Day. Former state Sen. John Grant is honored to be among them.  Gov. Rick Scott signed a record-sized state budget for Florida last week; Peter Schorsch notes that it included record-sized wins for the Alzheimer’s community. To Martin Dyckman, nothing so clearly shows the difference between theory and practice as the notion that Americans choose their elected representatives.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Four Florida beaches are among the best in the nation in the 24th annual Top 10 Beach List for 2014: Barefoot Beach in Bonita Springs ranked #2, St. George Island State Park in the Panhandle ranked #3, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne ranked #7 and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park in Naples was ranked #10.

Coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, also known as “Dr. Beach,” a professor at Florida International University, produces the list every year. Beginning in 1991, Dr. Beach proclaimed the top 10 beaches that best meet the 50 criteria he created to rate the nation’s best beaches.

Criteria used to determine the ranking of the nation’s top beaches include beach material, water temperature, sand softness, smell, trash and litter, safety record, and algae in the water.

“This year’s list highlights the versatility of our Florida State Parks, which include nearly 100 miles of sandy beaches,” said Florida State Parks Director Donald Forgione. “St. George Island, Delnor-Wiggins Pass and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Parks all provide scenic beaches and outstanding recreational opportunities.”

Three of the four nationally ranked beaches are found within Florida State Parks. While all three offer sandy beaches and places to sunbathe, each also offers unique opportunities to appeal to visitors of all kinds.


Parking Madness 2014: the competition a city doesn’t want to win. This isn’t a study on which metro area has residents who are the worst at parallel parking or backing in — but rather on which city has the greatest share of its landscape eaten up by excess parking lots, as determined in large part by votes of residents themselves.

In 2013, Tulsa earned Streetblog USA’s “Golden Grater” — and in 2014, the designation went to Rochester, NY. But a few Florida cities were big contenders: Miami and Jacksonville, especially. Miami was noted for its “million dollar parking views, overlooking the Miami River and Biscayne Bay” but was eliminated in the first round by Rochester.  Jacksonville, however, made it all the way to the finals — beating Calgary, Dallas and Chicago (“some of the most hideous parking expanses in the world”) to get there.

“Drab. Dead. Ugly. Pretty much any adjective that is synonymous with “lifeless” works for this part of Jacksonville,” Streetsblog USA writes on Florida’s northeastern most metropolis. “This one is one of those extra-terrible waterfront parking craters. Carved up by so many freeways, could this ever become a walkable city environment, or is it destined for eternal crater-tude?”


Three central Florida cities have been ranked among the best places in the country to staycation.

Tampa ranked eighth overall and Orlando was ninth in’s 2014 list of the 100 Best and Worst Cities to Staycation. Other Florida cities included on the list are St. Petersburg (No. 11), Miami (No. 63), Jacksonville (No. 75) and Hialeah (No. 85).

WalletHub considered 20 factors in determining its list, ranging from public golf courses and swimming pools per capita, to the cost of maid services.

Orlando ranked first for food and entertainment and was third for relaxation. St. Petersburg ranked fifth for recreation and seventh for relaxation.

According to WalletHub, vacationers are expected to spend $1,246 per person this summer, up 9 percent from 2013 due to rising hotel and airfare costs.

***The Public Affairs Consultants Team of Jack Cory, Keyna Cory and Erin Daly 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.***

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my mother, Eileen, who turns 60 today.

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.