Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 7.12.17 – Why not Matt Gaetz?; Trouble at the RPOF; Ron DeSantis’ newest mega-donor; B-CU prez steps down; Is Jamie Grant pro-duel?

in Peter/Top Headlines by

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.


Why doesn’t Matt Gaetz run for Attorney General in 2018?

Increasingly, this is a question buzzing from the Panhandle to the Potomac.

The din about Gaetz entering the 2018 AG field is only getting louder now that it appears that Ron DeSantis will run for governor and not the top law enforcement post.

Matt Gaetz answers questions during an “Open Gaetz Day” event at Grover T’s BBQ in Milton.

So far only former circuit court judge Ashley Moody (definitely a comer) and state Rep. Jay Fant (not exactly a household name) are in the race. This leaves a lot of room for another candidate from the conservative wing of the Republican party to join the fray.

For much of his career, the first-term Republican congressman has proved adept at getting traction for significant issues and his pet projects. In Florida politics, Gaetz earned his reputation for oratory skills, pointed humor and blunt talk, as well as mastering social media and the internet to get things done.

Having the last name Gaetz doesn’t hurt either, being the son of North Florida political scion Don Gaetz. Name ID is definitely a commodity that could serve him well, particularly compared to those now in the AG race.

And he certainly isn’t afraid to make waves, especially when he proposed a bill February to “completely abolish” the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

While the proposal didn’t play well in some circles, it certainly solidified his base in the Panhandle. That, and the fact that he didn’t shy away from holding (occasionally contentious) town halls with constituents in several not-at-all-ironic “Open Gaetz Days.” He certainly isn’t afraid to play a possibly unfriendly room, unlike some of his congressional colleagues.

No doubt, moves like that take a courage of conviction, as well as more than a little chutzpah – another plus for a statewide run.

So tell us again why shouldn’t Gaetz throw his hat into the ring?

“On the road with Matt Gaetz” with Kelly Humphrey of the Northwest Florida Daily News

Tweet, tweet:

“Jay Fant tops $68K in June for AG race” via News4Jax – Fant, whose money came predominantly from Jacksonville and Tallahassee, had raised an overall total of $147,815 for his campaign account as of June 30, while spending $2,260. A report for Fant’s political committee known as “Pledge This Day” posted a single $1,000 donation in June from Gate Petroleum Company of Jacksonville. … Meanwhile, Democrat Ryan Torrens, an attorney from Hillsborough County, reported raising $17,935 in June, bringing his overall total to $21,552. Most of Torrens’ June money came from the Tampa region, including $3,000 from the Consumer Protection Firm in Tampa, a law firm that specializes in fighting “robo-bullies.”

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. #NeverStopReaching***


Florida GOP raises nearly $339K in second quarter of 2017; figure marks one of lowest totals in two decades” via Florida Politics — State records show the Republican Party of Florida raised $338,942 between April 1 and June 30. The fundraising period covered a portion of the 2017 Legislative Session and a three-day special session, during which state lawmakers are prohibited from raising money. … The three-month fundraising period pales in comparison to previous fundraising periods by the Republican Party of Florida. The Florida GOP raised more than $4.1 million in the second quarter of 2016; one year earlier it raised more than $1.9 million in the same three-month fundraising period. State campaign finance records dating back to 1996 show this year’s quarterly numbers are the the lowest in more than two decades. Records show the next lowest fundraising period was Nov. 1, 1996 and Dec. 31, 1996, when the party reported raising $572,531. There were three fundraising periods, state records show, where the state party reported raising no money.

Facebook status of the day via former RPOF chairwoman Leslie Dougher:

Florida state Senators raise $720K in Q2 of 2017, doubling state party” via Florida Politics — State records show the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $720,000 between April 1 and June 30. The top contributor to the committee during the three-month period was Sen. Bill Galvano’s political committee, Innovate Florida. Galvano’s committee gave the FRSCC $160,000. Records show AT&T gave the committee $55,000; while six organizations — Arda-Resort Owners Coalition, Duke Energy, Teco Energy, American Traffic Solutions, Florida Medical Association PAC, and The Geo Group Inc. Political Contribution Account — gave $50,000. … The three-month haul is more than double what the Republican Party of Florida reported during the same fundraising period.

– “Rick Scott committee collects $146,000 in June” via the News Service of Florida

GOP megadonor gives $250K to Ron DeSantis-aligned committee” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Republican megadonor Richard Uihlein in June gave $250,000 to a state committee that appears to be collecting money to support Republican Rep. DeSantis’ next political move. Uihlein is CEO of Wisconsin-based Uline, a distributor and shipping company, and has long been a rainmaker for Republican candidates and causes. During the 2016 election cycle, Uihlein gave more than $22 million to federal candidates, including $75,000 to a super PAC that supported DeSantis’ failed U.S. Senate bid. Uihlein’s contribution to the political committee Fund for Florida’s Future is his first state-level contribution to a Florida candidate or committee.

Jeremy Ring nets $44K in 1st month of CFO bid” via Florida Politics – CFO and other executive candidates can accept up to $3,000 per contributor during their campaigns, and the Broward County Democrat brought in nine such checks. Max donors include three companies tied to Fort Lauderdale businessman Jeff Roschman, each of which chipped in $3,000. Alachua author and Temple of the Universe founder Mickey Singer also gave $3,000, as did Jeff Keith, an Indiana resident who is an executive at venture capital group Sterling Partners. In all, the former Yahoo! executive brought in 63 contributions totaling $43,997. About half of his donors chipped in $100 or less.

Bruno Barreiro raises $176,000 in first quarter after declaring bid for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald Barreiro declared his candidacy May 10, meaning he wasn’t raising money throughout the entire fundraising quarter, which lasted from April 1 to June 30. “I raised $176,000 in five weeks, that’s a good amount,” Barreiro said. “I’m just chugging along.” Barreiro said all of his donations apply only to the Republican primary, meaning none of his donors maxed out on their $5,400 federal contribution limits and can donate again for the general election. Barreiro will face off against former Miami-Dade mayoral candidate and school board member Raquel Regalado and Maria Peiro in the Republican primary. Regalado and Peiro have not released fundraising totals for the quarter.

– “Shawn Harrison brings in more than $36,000 in June for re-election bid” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Florida doctors backs Daniel Perez in HD 116 — The Florida Medical Association PAC has endorsed Perez in the special election to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116. “The FMA PAC is proud to endorse Daniel Perez for House District 116,” said Dr. Mike Patete, the president of the FMA PAC, in a statement. “Living in the district, he has a keen understanding of the issues of importance to the community and the patients and physicians in the area. We look forward to working with him in the Florida House.” Perez faces Jose Mallea in the July 25 special election to replace Diaz, who resigned effective Sept. 26, to run for the Senate District 40 special election.“

More legislative hopefuls file to run in 2018LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ reports several candidates filed to run for legislative seats in 2018. Republican Keasha “Kay” Gray has challenged Sen. Dennis Baxley in Senate District 12. Gray is the president and CEO of TBNB Inc., a multimedia corporation. Democrat Francine Shebell has filed to run in House District 33 in The Villages, a massive Central Florida retirement community. Republican Rep. Don Hahnfeldt current represents the district, but has not yet filed to run for re-election. Democrat Jason Montgomery has filed to run for the House District 40 seat. Montgomery is the Manatee County supervisor of athletics, and is the second Democrat to enter the race. He’ll face Shandale Terrell in the primary. The winner of the primary will face incumbent Republican Rep. Colleen Burton. Rep. Jayer Williamson is currently running unopposed, after Democrat Preston Bartholomew Anderson dropped out of the House District 3 race. And the race to replace term-limited Rep. Tom Goodson in House District 51 is down to three Republicans, after Cocoa Beach Mayor Tim Tumulty announced he was withdrawing from the race.


Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio press Donald trump on search for missing FBI agent” via Sergio Bustos of POLITICO Florida – Nearly two dozen lawmakers are urging the Trump administration to continue to search for the whereabouts of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran more than a decade ago and was believed to be either imprisoned or dead. The bipartisan group, led by Nelson and Rubio, sent a letter pressing administration officials to “maintain pressure on Iran to see that [Bob] is returned as soon as possible” … “Bob is still not home, and despite repeated promises, Iran has yet to cooperate in any meaningful way,” the lawmakers wrote. “Iran is responsible — if Iranian officials don’t have Bob, they know where to find him.”

Secretary of state defends release of voter information” via Arek Sarkissian of the Tallahassee Democrat Ken Detzner said he complied with parts of a request he received from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity because he had to follow state law. Detzner spoke of the two laws in a letter he sent last week to commission Vice Chairman Kris Kobach. “Once again, this information is already regularly given out to anyone who makes a public records request to the Department of State as required by Florida law. As my letter stated, the responsibility of the accuracy and fairness of our election process in Florida lies with us, not with the federal government in Washington, D.C.” Detzner said the request from Kobach is identical to others that his office processes every year. “As my letter stated last week, Florida will absolutely not provide any information that is not already available to the public,” Detzner said.

Rick Scott puts spotlight on opioid problem during Sarasota visit” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-TribuneScott came to Sarasota to highlight a new law sponsored by two Southwest Florida legislators that cracks down on fentanyl, a powerful synthetic drug. Scott and local officials touted an array of efforts to address the opioid problem, even as some drug treatment experts have been complaining that the state did not do enough this year to fund programs that fight addiction. Scott officially signed the fentanyl bill last month. It becomes law Oct. 1. It establishes mandatory minimum sentences for possession of various amounts of the drug — which is often laced with heroin — and makes it possible to charge dealers with murder when an overdose results in death.

Just say no: Rick Scott, here in Palm Beach County, ceremonially signed a bill boosting penalties for synthetic opioid drugs, including fentanyl. With him (at left) is Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican.

– “Mental health advocates say lawmakers failing to address treatment for opiod addicts” via Jake Stofan of WCTV

– “Palm Beach County considering suing drug companies over opioid epidemic” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

– “Tampa Bay officials criticize Legislature for failing to tackle opioid epidemic” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will highlight the 5 percent increase for sworn state law enforcement officers during an event at 11 a.m. at Florida Highway Patrol Troop E Headquaters, 1011 NW 111th Ave in Miami.

Assignment editors: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will hold a press conference about skimmers on gas pumps at 11 a.m. at Orange County Sheriff’s Office Central Operations Mel Martinez Auditorium, 2500 W. Colonial Drive in Orlando. He will be joined by Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings and Orlando Police Deputy Chief Orlando Rolon.

What CFO Patronis is reading –Florida tops ranking of states’ fiscal strength” via Jeff Jeffrey of the Tampa Bay Business Journal –… according to a study by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. The group ranked Florida as the state with the strongest fiscal condition based on data collected from each state’s most recent audited comprehensive annual financial report. This year’s study, the center’s fourth, looked at reports from fiscal year 2015. Florida’s No. 1 ranking ends Alaska’s three-year reign atop the leaderboard. Florida ranked No. 1 in fiscal solvency because of the high levels of cash it kept in reserve — between eight and 10 times the cash needed to cover the state’s short-term obligations. Florida also benefited from revenue that exceed expenses by 7 percent and from having a low liability-to-asset ratio compared to other states. Florida’s liabilities were 34 percent of total assets, much lower than the state average of 61 percent, the study said. Additionally, the study noted that Florida has relatively low unfunded pension obligations – 22 percent of state personal income – and a total debt of $24.5 billion, which represents just 3 percent of state personal income.

B-CU president Edison Jackson steps down amid mounting money woes” via Seth Robbins and T.S. Jarmusz of the Daytona Beach News-Journal –Bethune-Cookman University President Jackson told the school’s board of trustees he will be retiring as president — ending his term about a year before his contract is set to expire. Board members accepted Jackson’s early retirement, which will be set at a later date … Jackson’s departure comes in the wake of consecutive stories that investigated B-CU’s troubling finances, including that it suffered increasing operating losses because of spending and mounting debt from the financing of its newest dorm, which will cost the school more than $306 million over 40 years. For more than two years, a small group of alumni and former trustees have raised questions about the dormitory’s cost, which originally was projected to be $72.1 million and actually has amounted to $85 million.

John Tobia’s Puerto Rico anti-statehood resolution dies in Brevard, then he gets grilled” via Scott Powers of Florida PoliticsTobia, a former state representative from Brevard, withstood 10 public speakers – some Puerto Ricans living in Brevard or Orange County, some non-Puerto Ricans – accusing him of being “a little politician,” of overstepping his authority as a county commissioner, of seeking to further his career at the cost of Puerto Ricans, and of introducing a resolution “with an air of racism about it.”… “This resolution is inflammatory, misleading and disrespectful to the people of Puerto Rico,” said Dr. Jorge Perez de Armas, a retired U.S. Army major and hematologist born in Puerto Rico and living in Brevard County. One speaker spoke in favor of the resolution. Tobia sat respectfully and did not seek to reply to the speakers, and Board Chairman Curt Smith did not ask him to. Before the speakers, he introduced the resolution, read it, and moved for its adoption. No one seconded. Smith declared it dead. A large number of people at the meeting applauded.

“Judge files order after ruling ‘pre-reveal’ games are illegal slots” via Florida PoliticsAs expected, a Tallahassee judge has entered a written order following his decision last month that he had gotten it “wrong the first time” and said games known as “pre-reveal” are in fact illegal slot machines. Circuit Judge John Cooper filed a “final declaratory judgment,” which allows Gator Coin II — the Jacksonville company that distributes the games—to now appeal. In March, Cooper issued a previous judgment that “pre-reveal” games weren’t slots because … if the outcome of a game is known, it’s not a game of chance, he said then. Cooper’s new order, in part, says that “to have a chance to receive an outcome other than what is currently displayed by the preview feature, the player must commit money to the machine to be privy to the next preview.” That “play pattern” is an “illegal gaming scheme designed to circumvent gambling prohibitions,” the order says.

Prison officials, disabled inmates reach settlement” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida – Under the settlement agreement finalized last week, the state promised, among other things, to provide sign-language interpreters for deaf inmates and to remove architectural barriers for prisoners who use wheelchairs. “It will be a game changer for them,” Florida Justice Institute Executive Director Randall Berg, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Disability Rights Florida and more than 30 inmates last year, said during a telephone interview when asked about the impact of the settlement agreement on disabled prisoners. The complaint laid out a plethora of woes encountered by deaf inmates.


Affordable housing remains an issue for Florida, legislators say” via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – Floridians who want affordable housing might have to move inland because coastal property is too expensive, a Naples state senator told a real estate group … Sen. Kathleen Passidomo said she wants to take a “holistic approach” to the problem of affordable housing by looking to build units inland, fixing roads and investing in public infrastructure to support the development. She also said the state should consider building apartments on top of certain commercial properties. “We can’t guarantee that our workers are going to live next door to us,” said Passidomo, while speaking at a luncheon hosted by the Real Estate Investment Society at the Pelican Preserve in Fort Myers. “It’s just not going to happen.”

“Court clerks funding case continues in capital” via Florida Politics – A lawsuit over how the state funds its clerks of court still is trudging along in Tallahassee, court dockets show. Circuit Judge Karen Gievers set a case management conference for Sept. 7, after lawyers for plaintiff Howard Forman alerted the court of possible “additional or substituted parties.” Forman, a Democrat and former state senator, was Broward County Clerk of Court when he filed the suit last May; he since retired and was replaced by his wife, Brenda Forman, elected last November. But lawmakers this year made several changes to the way clerks get money from the state, including “requiring certain filing fees for trial and appellate proceedings be deposited into clerks … funds, rather than into the General Revenue Fund,” one of the points of contention in the suit.

Tweet, tweet:

2017 Session in review — Missing the good old days of the 2017 Session? Don’t worry, Sachs Media Group has you covered. The firm released a 2-minute and 30 second session-in-review video, highlighting some of the key stats – like how many bills were filed during the 2017 Session; which bills had a higher passage rate; where bills died; and which members had the highest passage rates – from the most recent regular session.

Click the image below to watch the video.


Appointed Gerald Jowers and Ward Britt (reappointed) to the West Orange Healthcare District.

“Personnel note: Five join Florida Bar’s Citizens Advisory Committee” via Florida PoliticsFive new members have joined The Florida Bar‘s Citizens Advisory Committee, including recently retired St. Petersburg College president Bill Law, the organization announced Tuesday. Law had been the state college’s leader since 2010. Before that, he was a college president in Springfield, Illinois; The Woodlands, Texas; and in Tallahassee, as head of Tallahassee Community College. The committee is “an advisory group of 12 citizens with varied interests and backgrounds who provide two-way communication between the state’s major citizen constituencies and the Bar’s Board of Governors,” a press release said.

Personnel note – The Suwannee River Water Management District has picked senior project manager Hugh Thomas as its new executive director. Thomas’ has been with the district since 2016 and his background includes more than a decade at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. He replaces Noah Valeqstein, who was appointed to head up the Florida Department of Environmental Protection back in May. Thomas will take over for current interim director Darrell Smith on July 17.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Stacy Arias, Chris Dudley, Jerry Lee McDaniel, James McFaddin III, Southern Strategy Group: Alliance for Safety and Justice, a project of the Tides Center

Brian Ballard, Chris Dorworth, Ballard Partners: The Pharm, LLC.

David Daniel, Thomas Griffin, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley, Jim Naff, Andrea Reilly, Smith Bryan & Myers: NTT Data, Inc.

Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: Accredited Surety & Casualty Company, Inc.

Danny Jordan, Samuel Verghese, One Eighty Consulting: Omniangle Technologies, LLC.

Wansley Walters, Ballard Partners: TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, LLC.
— ALOE —

Naples’ nude swimmers need to keep the neighbors in mind” via Harriet Howard Heithaus of the Naples Daily News – Naples and Collier County law enforcement officials say local residents are relaxed about private property nudity. They haven’t had many calls in the last several years complaining about indecent exposure. “In monitoring radio traffic, I can say that these types of complaints do not occur on a weekly basis,” wrote 1st Lt. of Patrol Drew Lee of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office … “Normally, the calls stem from public beach areas where foreign visitors not familiar with our customs/laws are sunbathing. Also, we occasionally receive after-hours calls from unauthorized nude bathers in hot tubs at condo/apartment complexes.” Collier County and Naples extend their blessing on your buff bathing, Godivas, but with a few precautions. Florida statutes govern nudity, and its primary suggestion is that intent counts: Exposure in a “vulgar or indecent manner” in “public or on the private premises of another, or so near thereto as to be seen from such private premises,” is a violation of Florida Statute 800.03 regarding nudity.

SeaWorld offers ‘up close’ tours of orcas” via The Associated Press – The new “Killer Whale Up-Close Tour” is another move by the theme park toward education and away from orca shows. During the 45-minute tours, visitors will also watch husbandry demonstrations and learn the whales’ health care and feeding habits. Reservations are required for the tours, which cost $79 per person and aren’t included in the regular admission ticket.

Happy birthday to former AG Bill McCollum.


Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss: ‘We know what happens in each scene’ of Season 8” via Daniel D’Addario of Time magazine – What about life after Game of Thrones are you looking forward to? WEISS: Drinking less. The only upside I can see of spending less time with Kit [Harington] and Alfie [Allen] is we will be drinking less. BENIOFF: It’ll be fun to do something new. This is the only thing I’ve worked on where I could imagine working on it for 10 years — it’s the only thing that’s maintained my interest for that long. But it’ll be fun to write for different characters at some point, it’ll be fun to write in a different world, maybe in a world where we don’t need horses and swords and — WEISS: — It’s funny because there’s so many… shooting people on horses is challenging in so many ways and there’s a whole different set of skills. It is a visual language of doing that. And so we’ve become pretty good of knowing what works with that and what doesn’t, and having specific ideas about that. We haven’t shot a single conversation in a car — when it’s done, it’ll be 10 years without one conversation in an automobile. I have to go back and watch other movies to find out how people shoot people talking in cars, because we’ve never done it. It’s a simple thing that anybody who shoots almost anything deals with on every show and movie in existence almost, but that’s not our show.”

Some ‘Game of Thrones’ stars are better than others at keeping secrets” via Stephanie Merry of The Washington Post – It’s really something to behold: the way these performers answer all sorts of questions from reporters without accidentally divulging the goods. But the trick with these interviews isn’t just secrecy. It’s making them interesting — giving people some morsel that might appear relevant, even if it’s not. Some of the actors are better than others. Here’s a look at how well they deliver, on a scale from one to five dragons. Rolling Stone interviewed Emilia Clarke … for a story titled “Emilia Clarke, the Queen of Dragons, Tells All.” Of course, she didn’t … she also revealed that she’d be around for another season. So she makes it through Season 7!? That’s not the kind of thing she was probably supposed to reveal, even if we already figured as much. Score: Three dragons. Aidan Gillen … used an interesting tactic designed to both generate headlines and give us nothing in the way of new intel. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he revisited a scene from Season 2 in which he bumped into a disguised Arya Stark, who had somehow managed to score a gig as Tywin Lannister’s servant. “It was unclear if he recognized her or not, but I have my own thoughts on that,” he said. “Yes, I did recognize her — I just didn’t say anything or do anything about it.” Score: Four dragons. Lena Headey was delightfully Cersei-ish when The New York Times asked her about next season. “Um, she’s not having a good time — there you go,” she told the interviewer. “Apparently winter is really coming, finally.” Score: Five dragons.

Watch Kit Harington audition to be Harry Potter and fellow ‘Game of thrones’ characters” via Luke Morgan Britton of NME.comHarington showed off his acting range on Jimmy Kimmel Live, “auditioning” for other Game Of Thrones parts as well as Harry Potter. The British actor – who plays Jon Snow in the HBO show – dressed up as Cersei, Daenerys, Arya Stark and more Game Of Thrones characters for the skit, as well as Harry Potter. “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die,” Harington said as Cersei Lannister. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to have sex with my brother.”

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.

Latest from Peter

Go to Top