Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 7.15.16 – The presidential race might be close than you think

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.


… before you read about Nice and Mike Pence and algae blooms and Zika, I’d like to give a shout-out to my dear friend, Ron Sachs, who is celebrating a birthday today for which there are not enough candles.

As braggadocious as Ron may be, there’s probably a lot you don’t know about him. So I asked those closest to him for a list of ten things you may not know about Ron.

  1. He is deeply committed to charitable causes. He and his wife Gay were honored in 2013 as Philanthropists of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
  2. As a student journalist, he was arrested for crusading work that got an unconstitutional law overturned – and is the reason the University of Florida’s “Independent Alligator” newspaper is independent.
  3. He can’t stand – really can’t stand – bananas and raw onions. So, four years ago, his staff presented him with birthday cakes shaped like a banana and an onion.
  4. He created a scholarship program for Tallahassee-area students. Through the support of donors, the Best & Brightest program has awarded $450,000 in cash scholarships to more than 1,300 of Leon County’s finest high school seniors over the past 11 years.
  5. At heart, he’s really just a kid who loves toys. His eyes lit up when a conference room table at his firm was temporarily converted into a ping-pong table. The same conference table has also sported a Slinky and a Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots game.
  6. Need a clean tissue? He’ll have one for you – he never goes anywhere without several in his pocket. Along with cough drops, mints, a comb, and several other you-never-know-when-you-need-them items.
  7. He was a frequent – and apparently susceptible – target of practical jokes pulled by his boss, Gov. Lawton Chiles.
  8. He abandoned a potential career as a troubadour by refusing to play a bar patron’s request for the Don Ho classic “Tiny Bubbles.”
  9. He’s authorized to do your ’do. Before one major event, he pulled out his always-present comb and adjusted Gov. Chiles’ hair. When he left the administration to open his new business, the Governor presented him with honorary barber and cosmetologist licenses.
  10. Yes, his youthful shock of hair is all his own – and the color belongs entirely to nature.

Happy birthday, Ron. One other apolitical item…

BEST NEWS OF THE DAY — UBER OFFERING FREE FROZEN TREATS FOR #UBERICECREAM via Florida Politics – National Ice Cream Day is Sunday, but ride-hailing service Uber announced it would celebrate the holiday a couple of days early in Florida with #UberIceCream … between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. today, users can open their app, set their location and request “ICE CREAM” at the bottom. A few minutes later, users can expect a pair of Magnum ice cream bars to be delivered free of charge … ice cream deliveries would be available in 10 Florida cities: Ft. Myers, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Miami, Naples, Orlando, Pensacola and Sarasota. The company encouraged users who get an ice cream delivery to upload a picture to their social media platform of choice with the #UberIceCream tag.Now, on to politics.


New analysis by Morning Consult found if the presidential election were held today, Hillary Clinton would top Donald Trump, with 320 electoral votes to his 212 electoral votes. The organization didn’t include Iowa in the electoral count because it is a statistical dead heat.

But with months to go before the first vote is count, the race is far from over.

The nonpartisan media and technology company found it’s a tight race in eight key states — Florida, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. And in each of those states, Morning Consult’s polling data is within 2 percentage points.

Take those states out of the equation, and the electoral math changes. Both candidates fall short of the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Clinton gets 241 votes in that scenario. Trump gets 190.

Morning Consult’s analysis shows Florida is a bit of a toss-up, although it leans Clinton. The organization’s polling shows Clinton with 42.6 percent support and Trump getting 42.1 percent.

Florida’s leanings haven’t changed much since April, the last time Morning Consult looked at the electoral map. But other states have, and the shift shows Trump gaining ground in the Midwest.

Iowa was considered solid Clinton territory in April; now it’s a toss-up. Ohio was Clinton country, now it leans Trump.

And it might not be a surprise to see Indiana has moved from “lean Trump” to solid Trump territory, especially since Trump widely believed to pick Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will be his running mate.

But shifts in the South, particularly in Georgia, could benefit Clinton. In April, Morning Consult place Georgia squarely in the Trump column. But according to new analysis, the Peach State now leans Clinton (albeit within the margin of error).

Get ready. It’s going to be a nail-biter.

POLL FINDS EMAILS WEIGHING ON HILLARY CLINTON, NOW TIED WITH DONALD TRUMP via Amy Chozick and Dalia Sussman of The New York Times – Clinton has emerged from the FBI investigation into her email practices as secretary of state a wounded candidate with a large and growing majority of voters saying she cannot be trusted, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll … 67 percent of voters say she is not honest and trustworthy. That number is up five percentage points from … last month, before the FBI released its findings. The damage from those revelations may or may not prove lasting. Trump is also distrusted by a large number of voters — 62 percent — but that number has stayed constant despite increased scrutiny on his business record and falsehoods in his public statements and Twitter messages. Clinton’s shifting and inaccurate explanations of her email practices at the State Department appear to have resonated more deeply with the electorate.

TWO FLORIDA POLLS SHOW CLINTON WITH A 5-POINT LEAD OVER TRUMP via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Clinton is hanging on to a five-point lead over Donald Trump in two new Florida polls – the latest in a raft of surveys that indicate the presidential race could be as close as ever in a state with a history of close elections. In a Marist College poll of 871 voters, Clinton leads Trump, 41 percent to 36 percent. Libertarian Gary Johnson has 7 percent support and Green Party candidate Jill Stein is at 4 percent. The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points, was conducted for NBC and the Wall Street Journal. In a Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll of 800 likely voters, Clinton leads Trump, 45 perent to 40 percent, with Johnson at 6 percent. Stein wasn’t polled, but 2 percent said they favored an unnamed “other” candidate. That survey, which has an error-margin of 4.1 percentage points, was conducted for the Democrat-aligned Project New America political committee, which is funded by unions and environmentalists. Though the two polls have the same five-point margin in Clinton’s favor, they differ from a Quinnipiac University poll released earlier in the week. That survey showed Trump nursing a three-point lead in Florida, an 11-point reversal in his favor from Quinnipiac’s poll a month before.

PAM BONDI, RICK SCOTT WILL SPEAK AT RNC via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – The exposure on all three major cable networks offers an opening for Bondi‘s critics to launch a new wave of attacks over her connections to Trump. The New York Times is reporting the convention schedule, though subject to changes: Monday: A Benghazi focus, followed by border patrol agents and Jamiel Shaw Sr., whose son was killed by an undocumented immigrant. Sen. Tom Cotton.; former NYC Mayor Rudy GiulianiMelania Trump; Sen. Joni Ernst and others. Tuesday: A focus on the economy: Dana White, the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship; Arkansas Gov. Asa HutchinsonMichael Mukasey, the former United States attorney general; Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a vice-presidential contender; Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader; Tiffany TrumpDonald Trump Jr. and Wisconsin Gov. Scott WalkerWednesday: BondiEileen Collins, the first woman to command a space shuttle mission; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; Sen. Ted CruzEric Trump; professional golfer Natalie Gulbis; and the nominee for vice president. ThursdayTebow; Rep. Marsha Blackburn; Oklahoma Gov. Mary FallinReince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman; Gov. Scott; billionaire Peter ThielThomas J. Barrack Jr., a private-equity real estate investor; Ivanka TrumpDonald J. Trump.

TIM TEBOW: REPUBLCAN CONVENTION SPEAKING GIG ONLY ‘A RUMOR’ via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – “I just got back from the Philippines and I wake up this morning to find out that I’m speaking at the Republican National Convention.  It’s amazing how fast rumors fly and that’s exactly what it is – a rumor,” Tebow says in the Instagram post. “My goal has always been to be able to make a difference in the biggest way possible. And if one day that’s the political realm, then that’s what I’ll do. But right now I really believe that’s through my foundation and our amazing partners and fighting for kids that can’t fight for themselves.”

TRUMP POSTPONES VP ANNOUNCEMENT, CITING FRANCE ATTACKS via Julie Pace and Jill Colvin of The Associated Press – Trump abruptly postponed plans to announce his vice presidential pick following a day of rampant speculation, citing the “horrible attack” in Nice, France, that left scores dead. The stunning announcement raised questions about the status of Trump’s selection process. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence had emerged as a late favorite for the job, though Trump said he had not finalized the pick and advisers cautioned he could change his mind. After spending much of Thursday in Indianapolis, Pence flew to New York late in the day … Trump did not say when he planned to announce his running mate. He’s up against a clock: The Republican convention kicks off in Cleveland Monday.

10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT MIKE PENCE, TRUMP’S POSSIBLE RUNNING MATE via Amber Phillips of The Washington Post – 1. Yes, he’s that guy from the last year’s religious freedom debate … he became a household name when he signed a religious freedom bill into law in 2015. 2. He’s a social conservative … Pence is a devout evangelical Christian who regularly talks about his faith. (He likes describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”) 3. He’s facing a competitive re-election race … Pence will have to drop out of his re-election bid now if he becomes Trump’s vice presidential nominee — which may be a good thing for him, given the religious freedom debate did Pence no favors in his re-election bid. 4. He was an early advocate for the tea party movement … 5. He endorsed Ted Cruz for president … 6. Paul Ryan likes him … 7. He once challenged John Boehner for his party’s leadership spot in the House … 8. He has long been viewed as a potential presidential candidate … 9. He has ties to the Koch brothers … The resumes of several of Pence’s top aides also include stints with the Koch brothers’ vast corporate and political networks. 10. He grew up as a Democrat.

PENCE GENERATES LITTLE ENTHUSIASM AMONG VOTERS, POLL SHOWS via Cameron Easley of – According to a national Morning Consult survey of more than 2,000 voters taken this past weekend, just 12 percent of respondents said Pence’s position on the ticket would make them more likely to back Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, over Hillary Clinton in November. Almost half of voters (48 percent) said Trump picking Pence would have no impact on their decision at the ballot box. Voters expressed more enthusiasm for other VP candidates, including Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich …  a large majority of voters had no opinion or had never heard of the Indiana governor, regardless of political affiliation. Sixty-five percent of Republicans said they had no opinion or had never heard of Pence. Seventy-one percent of independents and 65 percent of Democrats said the same. In the Hoosier State, almost half (47 percent) of voters approve of Pence’s job performance, with 40 percent voicing disapproval. He is the 36th-ranked governor in the U.S. in terms of job approval.

TBT: A RICK SCOTT AND MIKE PENCE MOMENT IN FORT LAUDERDALE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott and Pence crossed paths in Fort Lauderdale earlier this year at an event that also featured Bill Scherer, a lawyer and lobbyist who has been a prominent figure in Republican circles for a long time — and who’s a native of Indiana. Photos from the Feb. 5 event indicate they were at the Tripp Scott law firm, whose partners include former Senate President Jim Scott and Ed Pozzuoli, a former Broward County GOP chairman who’s a delegate to next week’s convention. Speculation is mounting that Pence will be Trump‘s choice for running mate — especially after Pence’s name was not listed among the speakers at next week’s convention in Cleveland.

MARCO RUBIO CUTS CONVENTION VIDEO, CARLOS BERUFF CALLS HIM ‘JELLO’ via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Rubio isn’t going to the Republican National Convention, but he’s speaking there via video. Rubio’s brief video statement … was instantly criticized by … Beruff, who has taken issue with Rubio’s attempts to avoid conflict concerning Donald Trump. Rubio has alternated between criticizing Trump when the two ran for president, then saying he’d speak on his behalf at the convention, then saying he wouldn’t do that and then deciding not to attend the convention … “Figuring out where Marco stands on Trump is like nailing Jello to a wall, which is fitting, since Jello is approximately the consistency of Marco’s backbone,” Beruff’s statement said. Beruff’s campaign said Rubio’s handling of the matter was indicative of the way he managed his job as senator … “Looks like he’s going to phone it in just like he’s phoned it in as a Senator. After attacking Trump for months during the presidential primary and on the day he announced he was running for re-election, Marco has suddenly changed his tune, presumably after a poll showed that Republicans in Florida are united behind Trump.”

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Bright House Networks for Business, your trusted provider of industry leading communications and networking services for any size business – from startup to enterprise, and everything in between. We offer a full portfolio of products and services, including Business Phone and cloud-based Hosted Voice, Business Internet at speeds up to 350 Mbps to fiber-based Dedicated Internet Access, several tiers of high-quality HD Video programming, and an array of advanced cloud and managed IT services. Our solutions are customized to fit your business, your budget and your industry. We own, manage and maintain our network, which means we are 100% accountable; and we’re locally based, which allows us to be immediately responsive to our customers. Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Bright House Networks. Learn more.***

RUBIO KNOCKS SBA FOR SAYING IT HAD ‘NO PROBLEM’ COMPLYING WITH PATRICK MURPHY REQUEST via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Rubio admonished the SBA: “Please answer the following question: In times of disasters, such as the algae bloom in Florida’s waterways, why would the SBA have ‘no problem’ delaying any form of relief to my constituents? Suffice it to say, this incident leaves a profoundly bad taste in the mouths of many Floridians who see this as an example of the SBA putting politics and publicity plans ahead of the needs of our people. As the SBA continues its efforts to provide assistance to Florida on this matter and others throughout our state, I ask that you act swiftly and not delay the immediate relief my constituents desperately need … I request an immediate response to my question.” Murphy’s other Senate rivals also jumped on the news. Republican Carlos Beruff said Murphy should resign for using his House office for political purposes, though it’s not clear Murphy violated any rules. He wouldn’t be the first politician to try to maximize news. But the request from his office looks bad amid the crisis. Murphy’s office last night defended the situation and said he supported the opening of an office to facilitate SBA loans.

CANDIDATES AVOIDING DEBATES IN U.S. SENATE PRIMARY via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – More than a year into Florida’s U.S. Senate campaign, the Republicans and Democrats hoping to win the Aug. 30 primary have yet to face off in a televised debate. It’s not for a lack of trying — at least with the TV and radio stations. They’ve tried to organize and broadcast debates between all the major candidates from either party. But so far, they’ve run into obstacles. The main hurdle: the candidates themselves. Several debate organizers said they struggled to make arrangements with two candidates in particular: Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy … Catherine Welch, news director for Orlando public radio station WMFE, said the Murphy campaign declined to participate in an early August debate due to a scheduling issue. Before that, she said it had been “radio silence” from the campaign for several months. Even without Murphy, [AlanGrayson and another Democratic candidate, Miami labor attorney Pam Keith, are scheduled in the Aug. 3 debate, Welch said. News outlets are also having trouble organizing debates between Republican candidates Rubio and Carlos Beruff … Mary Shedden, news director at WUSF in Tampa, said “Rubio is not real communicative.” And Bay News 9 abandoned its attempt after “both Rubio and Beruff had scheduling conflicts,” executive producer Michael Hardin said.

SUPER PAC BACKING MATT GAETZ RESERVES $232K IN TV TIME via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – … to begin running ads highlighting his state legislative record. Gaetz currently represents a state House seat in the Panhandle and has filed some of the most controversial gun bills in recent legislative sessions. The ad focuses on those bills, which are very popular in the 1st Congressional District, where Gaetz is among several candidates vying for the Republican nomination in a crowded field. “In the Florida House Matt Gaetz delivered right away, leading the fight to bring open carry to Florida,” says the narrator. The ad was funded by North Florida Neighbors, a super PAC backing Gaetz and Neal Dunn, a Republican running for the neighboring 2nd Congressional District. It was produced by Scott Howell & Company, a Washington-based firm that has done work for, among others, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican Governor’s Association. The first portion of the buy is $75,422, according to Federal Election Commission records.

CHARLIE CRIST IN CLEARWATER, LISTENS TO SMALL-BUSINESS CONCERNS via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times – Crist convened a small-business roundtable in downtown Clearwater … About a dozen small-business owners, most from St. Petersburg, complained of difficulties with Small Business Administration loans: too much paperwork and hassle, they said. They also said local governments put up too many roadblocks in the way of entrepreneurs. All levels of government should be more responsive to small-business owners, Crist said. If elected, he’d put his district office to work helping business owners navigate federal paperwork, he said. “You’ve got to listen before you fix things,” Crist said. And, mostly, he listened.

REBECCA NEGRON RAISES NEARLY $284 K IN SECOND QUARTER OF 2016 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Negron raised $283,715 during the three-month fundraising period. The haul marked her strongest fundraising period to date, and brought her total to $912,820. She has been bolstered by strong support from female Republicans and the pro-life Susan B Anthony List. She has received endorsements from Value in Electing Women PAC, Maggie’s List, the Palm Beach County Benevolent Association, and Florida Parents Against Common Core. Notable contributors include former Ambassador John Rood, Rep. Tom Rooney, and conservationists Nathaniel Reed and Paul Tudor Jones. That support from conservationists could be critical in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. The Treasure Coast has been plagued by blue-green algae. The bloom has clogged waterways and even forced some communities to close their beaches.

NEGRON RELEASES TV AD FOCUSING ON ALGAE BLOOMS via Bloomberg – Republican Negron released a TV ad – titled “Send the Water South” – calling attention to algal blooms affecting Florida’s coastal communities, blaming “Washington” for inaction and demanding completion of construction of new reservoir Negron, a county school board member, is among six Republicans seeking southeastern district of Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, who’s running for Senate.

TIM CANOVA RELEASES RADIO ADS ATTACKING DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ via SoundCloud – Democrat Canova, who’s challenging Wasserman-Schultz, released three radio ads, including two attack ads and one biographical ad. The ads will air in the South Florida market, per a statement from the campaign, but did not detail the ad buy timeline. Listen to them here: I Believe … Values” … “What Happened to America?

ROD SMITH DROPS THIRD AD IN SD 8, DIRECT AIM AT KEITH PERRY via Florida Politics – “In North Central Florida, our economy and way of life depend on safe water,” Smith says in the ad. “My opponent Keith Perry voted to ignore local communities and let polluters pump toxic chemicals into the ground, right next to the water we depend on and without disclosing the chemicals they’re using … That’s not responsible, it’s just money talking in Tallahassee.” The Gainesville Democrat is referring to Perry’s vote for HB 191 in 2016 session, which would have allowed fracking in Florida. The bill cleared the House on a party-line vote, but ended up dying in the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee. “I’m going to fight to keep our water safe, because without that we won’t have anything,” Smith said to close out the ad.

OUTSIDE GROUP SLAMS RITCH WORKMAN OVER IMMIGRATION VOTES via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Stop Career Politicians, a political committee created to hold Workman accountable for his “is moral, ethical and legal transgressions,” said the Melbourne Republican is “no boy scout in the fight against illegal immigration … Ritch Workman claims illegal immigrants don’t stand a chance with him standing in their way … How is providing discounted college tuition to illegal immigrants ‘standing in their way?’ Making it easier for those who brake our laws is the exact opposite of ‘standing in their way.’ In fact, Ritch Workman’s vote for college tuition discounts literally rewards illegal immigration.” In 2014, Workman voted for a bill that allowed students in the United States illegally to pay in-state tuition. That vote doesn’t appear to be mentioned in an Accomplished Conservative Leaders Fund mailer touting Workman’s stance on immigration. Instead, the mailer says Workman has fought to protect the borders and strengthen laws. The sole contributor to the committee is Citizens United for Liberty and Freedom, Workman’s political committee.

LESLIE JEAN BART MAKES THE CASE AGAINST HD 14 OPPONENT KIM DANIELS via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics – The most interesting primary in Jacksonville-area state House races right now may be the Democratic scrum in House District 14, which appears to be narrowing down to a two-woman contest between former Jacksonville City Councilwoman Daniels and trial lawyer Jean-Bart. There are similarities. Both have powerful backers. And both have meaningful endorsements: Daniels, who once proposed a 9 p.m. youth curfew in high-crime areas, from the Fraternal Order of Police; Jean-Bart, from the AFL-CIO. There are contrasts, to be sure. Daniels seems to have wrested the backing of Corrine Brown from Jean-Bart; Jean-Bart, meanwhile, was endorsed by termed-out incumbent Mia Jones. From the outset, Jean-Bart has run on a record of accomplishment, which has led her down many roads. Currently a law partner with prominent Democratic donor Wayne Hogan, previously the president of the Legal Services Union of Greater Miami, Jean-Bart brings a record to the campaign that others in the field don’t readily match. Lawyers are backing her, of course. And a lot of other groups back Jean-Bart also: JAXBIZ, the AFL-CIO, Ruth’s List, the National Women’s Political Caucus of Florida, and Equality Florida.


Al Lawson, running for Florida’s 5th Congressional District, is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police.

Frank Artilles, running for Senate District 40, is endorsed the Dade County Police Benevolent Association.

HILLSBOROUGH TO OFFER MAXIMUM 14 EARLY VOTING DAYS FOR PRIMARY via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – The doors to Tampa-area voters will be open Monday, Aug. 15, through Sunday, Aug. 28, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 16 sites, most of them regional libraries, including one new site, the Keystone Park Community Center at 17928 Gunn Hwy. in Odessa. In Pinellas, where a majority of voters now cast ballots by mail, early voting will be available for nine days (Aug. 20-28) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends at all three county elections offices. (A previous version of this post listed different hours). Pasco County will offer early voting for eight days and for eight hours a day (Aug. 20-27, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends) at eight locations. Hernando County will offer early voting on those same dates from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at four sites. Complete lists of all early voting locations can be found on the supervisor of elections’ websites.



DISTRICT REFUSES LAND BUY REQUESTS AND DISCHARGES ARE CUT AMID POLITICAL FLURRY via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO – The South Florida Water Management again rejected calls from environmentalists to buy farm land south of Lake Okeechobee to divert water discharges as politicians bickered over the issue … the district board voted to asked to step up repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike that could allow it to hold more water. The board also approved actions including holding back more water in lakes along the Kissimmee River upstream from Lake Okeechobee. Hendry County Commissioner Janet B. Taylor urged those actions while rejecting environmentalists’ calls to instead buy land for water storage, a move that she said threatens jobs and future of communities around the lake … But there was a drumbeat of support from other speakers at the meeting and elsewhere among politicians as the [U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers announced it is reducing discharges for the second time in two weeks … the Corps announced it was cutting target flows to the St. Lucie River by 44 percent in addition to reducing flows to the Caloosahatchee River. Lake Okeechobee has dropped nearly 3 inches since last week because of drier conditions and increased water storage in the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, a Corps official said.

— “Candidates split on buying land south of Lake Okeechobee to help Indian River Lagoon” via Melissa Holsman of TCPalm

RUBIO TOO SWEET ON SUGAR TO HELP OUR ALGAE PROBLEM via Gil Smart of TCPalm – Earlier this month, Rubio visited Martin County to see – and smell – the blue-green filth fouling our waterways. … [but] after all that, he was able to stand up at the microphones and dismiss the idea that buying land south of Lake Okeechobee might help. … Rubio – and Gov. Scott – have been among the top recipients of sugar industry campaign contributions. … foul as the algae may be – sugar is sweet … And Rubio needs the industry’s sweet largesse now that he’s decided he wants to retain his Senate seat after all. As he only recently launched his re-election campaign, there’s no info on the FEC’s website as to who his biggest donors are. … perhaps the Fanjul family, owners of sugar giant Florida Crystals – will lead that pack. Again.

TOM ROONEY SAYS EARMARK BAN HURTS LAKE OKEECHOBEE DIKE REPAIR via Lloyd Dunkelberger of Florida Politics – In a letter to Gov. Scott … Rooney explained that one of the problems in securing money for the repair of the Hebert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee is the U.S. House’s ban on earmarking money in the federal budget. The issue is simply this: Congress can authorize funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but without earmarks, lawmakers cannot direct the money to specific projects, like the lake’s crumbling dike. Rooney was responding to a July 12 letter from Scott who asserted the Obama administration was ignoring his request for help with the project. “The governor is exactly right — the Herbert Hoover Dike is drastically underfunded and the federal government is to blame. Period,” Rooney said. “Congress used to be able to directly influence Corps’ funding for specific projects like the dike and Everglades restoration and give the Corps more money for projects that were underfunded by the president — but now that is considered an earmark. “Since 2010, the earmark ban has left the fate of Corps projects squarely in the hands of the executive branch.” To resolve the issue, Rooney is trying to advance House Resolution 813, which would exclude water resources development projects of the Corps from the definition of a congressional earmark.

TOXIC ALGAE LURKS IN FLORIDA’S LAKES, THREATENING EAGLES AND OTHER BIRDS via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – A toxic algae has been poisoning birds throughout the South. Now it’s lurking in Florida’s freshwater lakes. This is not the same as the slimy, toxic blue-green algae plaguing Florida’s east coast, its stench has been driving tourists away and forcing residents to stay indoors. This one could be worse. So far it has been blamed for killing thousands of birds. No birds killed by the algae’s poisons have been found in Florida, but to the top expert on the subject, it’s only a matter of time. The stuff has already turned up in several lakes here. It hides on an invasive aquatic plant called hydrilla. Of all the invasive plants in Florida’s waterways, hydrilla costs the most to contain. The state has spent $66 million over the past seven years, just trying to hold it back from spreading … Hydrilla is native to Africa and Southeast Asia, but then Florida fish collectors discovered it looked nice in their aquariums. In the 1950s, some aquarium plant dealers tossed a few plants into Florida’s canals. It spread rapidly and began clogging lakes and rivers … waterfowl, particularly coots … eat the hydrilla … Coots travel in large flocks, she said and they “like to stop off at reservoirs full of hydrilla.” When the coots ate algae-covered hydrilla, the algae’s toxins would affect the brains of the entire flock. The only good thing about it is that the end is swift … “All the birds die within 24 hours.”

BUSINESS RECOVERY CENTER OPENS TO HELP BUSINESSES HURT BY ALGAE via Andrew Ruiz of WPTV –The U.S. Small Business Administration opened a Business Recovery Center to help with low interest Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Businesses in Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Indian River, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Osceola, Palm Beach, Polk, Saint Lucie and Sarasota all qualify for the assistance. Fifty-four businesses from seven counties have alerted the state they have suffered some form of economic damage from toxic green algae coating waterways in parts of Florida. The 54 businesses that have contacted the state about algae-related economic damages are involved in industries such as fishing, boating, restaurants and retail. Half of the complaints have come from businesses in Martin County, where the outcry about the algae has been the loudest. The Business Recovery Center is located at the Martin County Fairgrounds, 2616 SE Dixie Hwy, A Building, Stuart. It is open Monday thru Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

ACTIVISTS’ FIXATION ON LAND BUY IGNORES REALITY DURING ALGAE CRISIS via J.P. Sasser for Florida Politics – We can all agree the toxic algae blooms plaguing the Treasure Coast are a tragedy that needs to be fixed … But the relentless clamoring of environmental activists, who say the solution lies in taking land more than 50 miles to the south, is guided by a self-serving environmental concern that puts the interests of the people in coastal communities over those living in the rural areas between the interstates. Case in point: Do we really want to heed the activists’ call and send this algae-laden water south to America’s treasure, Everglades National Park? Such a move would reverse decades of progress, where today 90 percent of the water is meeting stringent federal standards – a success story the activists never want to talk about. Buying or taking productive farmland south of the lake to alleviate algae blooms and stop the discharges from Lake Okeechobee simply isn’t backed up by real science – and yet the activists pushing it never have to answer for this. It would cost tens of billions of dollars, diverting precious financial resources away from a slate of projects that are making or will make a real difference. It also wouldn’t have prevented the algae crisis … the result of several complex factors that scientists have thoroughly documented over the years: thousands of aging septic tanks on and around the lagoon that dump human waste into the water, local urban runoff and the effects of the lake discharges that have sent billions of gallons of nutrient-laden water, flowing from north of the lake, to the lagoon.

DANIEL PETERSON: KEEPING ON TRACK TO SOLVE THE EVERGLADES RIDDLE via Florida Politics – Trouble in South Florida in the Indian River Lagoon, and the estuary and coastline fed by the St. Lucie River, have many rightfully up in arms. The United States Army Corps of Engineers recently released billions of gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee to protect the integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike around the lake. While the dike and the inhabitants to the south are safe from flooding, the lagoon, estuary, and coastline are paying the price by being lined with blue-green algae blooms … There are a lot of factors at play here, but one thing is for sure, anyone who thinks that there’s a one-piece-of-land-fixes-all solution to this has disregarded the facts. That’s a costly bandwagon to jump on both for Floridians and for the environment. It also disregards the hydrology of the system, where the vast majority of flow occurs to the north of the lake. These are trying times for Florida. That’s why it has never been more critical to ensure available funds are used wisely and in a way that will have a long-term and significant impact. To bring some objectivity and historical reference to this heated debate, The James Madison Institute published a backgrounder titled, “Solving the Everglades Riddle: Addressing Water Quality and Quantity to Restore a Florida Legacy.” Meant to provide policymakers and concerned Floridians with a comprehensive overview of the Everglades restoration process, the report describes the enormity and complexity of the Everglades by looking at its various regions and ecological challenges. Also described are various methods currently being used or considered to control vast amounts of water and improve its quality.


ZIKA FUNDING BILL FAILS AS CONGRESS IS UNABLE TO REACH COMPROMISE via Will Drabold of Time magazine – After months of negotiation and national calls to action, Congress will not provide any money to fight the spread of Zika in the United States this summer. The final chance this summer to fund the White House’s February request evaporated in the form of a failed vote in the Senate. The White House did not immediately provide comment on the stalemate and how it will impact efforts to combat the spread of the virus … Barack Obama previously blasted Republicans in May for not allocating money to fight Zika and criticized their proposal to spend funds left over from fighting Ebola on Zika, something the administration started doing in April. Both Democrats and Republicans said they wanted to spend money to prevent the spread of Zika, but political disagreements ultimately trumped numerous health warnings. Senate Democrats refused to support House Republican additions to the legislation that would reduce funding for Planned Parenthood, defund parts of the Affordable Care Act and reversed a ban on flying Confederate flags in military cemeteries. After this week, Congress will recess till September.

FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS PUSH PAUL RYAN FOR ACTION ON ZIKA FUNDING via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Democratic members of the Florida Congressional delegation sent a letter urging Ryan to act on Zika. Partisan gridlock remains over Zika funding while the House is poised to recess … In the Senate, Marco Rubiohas joined Bill Nelson and the Democrats in calling for $1.9 billion in federal funding. From the Florida House Democrats’ letter: “This is a serious public health crisis, which House Republicans have shamefully responded to with endless delays and refusals to provide the funding our public health experts have said we need to properly tackle Zika … It is unconscionable for House Republicans to send Members home for seven weeks without passing legislation that would meaningfully address this deadly disease. This crisis falls squarely at their feet, and the House of Representatives should not recess until we do the job we were elected to do and help keep the American people healthy and safe.” The letter was signed by Florida Democrats in the House: Lois FrankelAlcee HastingsTed DeutchPatrick MurphyFrederica WilsonCorrine BrownAlan GraysonGwen Graham and Kathy Castor.

BIG BEND REMAINS ZIKA FREE via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat – The mosquito-borne virus has infected residents of 27 of the state’s 67 counties, but it has yet to occur in the 13-county Big Bend region that includes Tallahassee. The state does not report the home counties of pregnant women infected with Zika. No one seems to know why Zika has bypassed the Big Bend. The region framed by Jackson and Gulf counties to the west and Dixie and Suwannee to the east is Zika free. “The CDC is not able to predict how much (the) Zika virus would spread or when in the continental United States,” said Benjamin Haynes at the CDC. “It’s a little tricky to pinpoint, but all of the Florida cases are travel-related so it’s hard to pin (its absence) on a quirk or the randomness of nature.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will highlight job growth at 10 a.m. at Naples Lumber and Supply Co., 3828 Radio Road in Naples.

ANTIGAMBLING GROUP’S POLL SHOWS OVERWHELMING CONCERN ABOUT GAMING IN FLORIDA via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – A new poll commissioned by the anti-gambling group No Casinos finds overwhelming majorities of Florida voters expressing strong reservations about the expansion of gaming and the politicians who would support such expansion … 75 percent of the voters surveyed did not think more gambling would improve quality of life, and 83 percent believe voters, not politicians, should make decisions about gambling policy. 69 percent of the surveyed voters said they would support a referendum requiring voter approval of all gambling expansion decisions. Only 21 percent said they would oppose it. 83 percent stated that they believe Florida voters should decide gambling policy in Florida. By comparison, 7 percent believe the Florida Legislature should decide, 3 percent think the governor should choose, and 3 percent believe the courts should decide. 72 percent indicated they would be less likely to support a political candidate who supports expanded gambling in Florida without a statewide vote. By contrast, 18 percent said they are more likely to support such a candidate, and 6 percent said it makes no difference … 75 percent disagreed that more gambling in their city would improve the quality of life for them or their families, while 18 percent said they believe more gambling improves their quality of life.

FLORIDA’S AIRPORTS, BRIDGES AND ROADS GET PASSING GRADE via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat – The American Society of Civil Engineers awarded Florida an overall grade of a C in a report card on infrastructure. It meets today’s needs, but the future is in doubt without upgrades. A team of professional engineers assessed Florida’s amenities in 11 categories. Aviation (B-), bridges (B) and ports (B-) earned the highest marks. Schools, stormwater and coastal areas scored Ds. And drinking water, energy, and roads came in the middle with Cs, drinking water got a C-plus and energy a C-minus. Tonya Mellen chaired the committee that assessed the state. She said the overall GPA of a C indicates the state needs a game plan for the future. “Between our expected population increase, rising sea levels and hurricane risks, our infrastructure needs to grow and adapt to be ready for the future,” said Mellen. This is the third time the ASCE has graded the Florida infrastructure. The state earned a C in 2008, followed by a C-minus in 2012 and then this year’s C. In the ASCE’s assessment of the nation’s infrastructure, the USA, as a whole, earned a D.

STATE LEADERS, EXPERTS TO DISCUSS FUTURE OF MOBILITY AT BETTER TRANSPORTATION SUMMIT via Lloyd Dunkelberger of Florida Politics – Floridians already know the future of transportation is impacting the state’s highways. Exploration of that future will be one of the themes when the 2016 Floridians for Better Transportation Summit meets Tuesday and Wednesday at the Loews Don CeSar Hotel on St. Pete Beach. “Transportation is transformative. It has the power to fuel the economy, stimulate job creation and change the way we live,” said Floridians for Better Transportation President Matthew D. Ubben. “If Florida can get transportation right, the rest will follow” … keynote speaker will be Lawrence Burns, a former University of Michigan engineering professor who also has served as a vice president for research and development at General Motors … has long been a champion of the “reinvention of the automobile,” including driverless cars, vehicle electrification, fuel cells, advanced batteries and other innovative vehicle concepts. Other summit speakers include Sen. Jack Latvala, the incoming state Senate budget chair, and state Rep. Lake Ray, who will talk about local and statewide transportation issues.

FLORIDA PAROLE BOARD SETS PATH TO FREEDOM FOR PRISON HOUDINI via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press – A man known as the “prison Houdini” for his numerous escapes was given a path to freedom … 36 years after being convicted of stealing mechanic tools his father bequeathed to him. Florida’s parole board voted 2-1 to set a July 26 release date, choosing to get Mark DeFriest help for mental health issues and prepare him for the world outside of prison rather than punish him for acting out after a series of recent missteps left him in solitary confinement in an Oregon prison. The decision means DeFriest, 55, can now be transferred to a California prison, where he still has to complete a two-year sentence for having drugs while incarcerated there. California has assured the parole board he will get the treatment and programs it hoped he would get when it sent him to Oregon in 2014. DeFriest is described as an autistic savant – an incredibly intelligent man who couldn’t handle the prison system because of his mental health issues. He was originally sentenced to four years on a burglary conviction for taking his father’s tools before his will could be executed. That turned into a virtual life sentence after seven escapes and 13 attempts, along with related charges after the breakouts. It didn’t help that he also had nearly 400 disciplinary reports, called DRs for short.

STATE INSPECTION: TALLAHASSEE COMPLEX HAD BACTERIA, BATS AND MOLD via The Associated Press – The Department of Business and Professional Regulation released the results of an inspection of the complex where bat feces were discovered earlier this year. Ken Lawson, the head of the agency, says the report justifies the decision by state officials to move roughly 850 state workers out of the former mall. Inspectors discovered pounds of bat feces above the ceiling in Lawson’s office in March. State legislators ordered a halt to lease payments to the complex owners. Both the state and the complex owners have filed lawsuits against each other. Northwood Associates, the owner of the complex, has contended the action by state legislators is unconstitutional.

PERSONNEL NOTE: BRAD SWANSON NAMED PRESIDENT OF FCTA via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Swanson has been tapped to lead the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association. Derek Cooper, chair of the association’s board of directors, announced Swanson has accepted the position of FCTA president. “On behalf of FCTA, I am excited that we have someone of Brad’s caliber to lead the association,” said Cooper. “We welcome Brad and look forward to the dynamic energy and varied skill sets he brings to the post.” Swanson fills a vacancy created by the departure of longtime FCTA President Steve Wilkerson. Swanson is the former executive director of the Florida Transportation Commission. Before joining the commission, he served as the state freight, logistics and passenger operations administrator at the Florida Department of Transportation. Swanson also spent several years at the Florida Chamber of Commerce, including serving as the organization’s vice president of corporate and strategic partnerships.

PULSE MEMORABILIA SOON TO BE HISTORY; PERMANENT MEMORIAL PLANNING BEGINS via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – All the Pulse massacre memorabilia laid on the lawn of the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center … soon will be history. But by Monday, the Orange County Regional History Center staff is to expected complete their efforts to carefully collect and archive all the non-perishable tribute items that have been placed at the Seneff Arts Plaza, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer‘s office announced … items will be catalogued and photographed before their long-term preservation at the Orange County Regional History Center, where they will become part of a permanent collection and display remembering the June 12 massacre at Orlando’s popular gay nightclub Pulse, and the unity that grief brought the community. The history center staff already has collected and preserved 2,500 items from a variety of locations around the city.

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***


HERALD-TRIBUNE’S JOSH SALMAN NAMED ‘JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR’ via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Herald-Tribune investigative reporter Salman was named “Journalist of the Year” by the Society of Professional Journalists Florida Pro Chapter, which also awarded the newspaper four other first-place recognitions in its annual “Sunshine State Awards.” Salman … recently investigated the federal government’s EB-5 visa program, which allows wealthy individuals from other countries to jump to the front of the immigration line in return for committing $500,000 to $1 million to projects in the United States. A Department of Homeland Security audit has shown that EB-5 poses “national security threats that could harm the U.S.” But the program continues to grow faster than the government can keep up. The judges said of Salman: “The greatest compliment paid to someone in our business is not necessarily a Pulitzer or a raise (although those things are nice), it’s knowing that you’ve incited change. Josh Salman’s work demonstrates dogged reporting, thoughtful prose, and the wonderful effect journalists can have on the world.”

HOW THE MIAMI HERALD IS GETTING TO KNOW ITS AUDIENCE AGAIN via Kristen Hare of Poynter – Newsrooms and journalists around the country have had access to real-time analytics for years. In March, the Herald joined in and gave everyone access to Chartbeat … every reporter was asked to raise total traffic to their stories by 7.5 percent. They got training in headline writing and search engine optimization. They started forming teams to function like startups, responsible for covering subjects such as Cuba, local government and food. Change didn’t hit the newspaper industry in one big wallop. It has come, instead, in relentless small ones. The Herald didn’t just start making changes to adapt to digital, either. But for Aminda Marqués Gonzalez, the Herald’s executive editor and vice president, this year’s about accelerating those changes. All of the shifts have one thing in common: They require everyone at the Herald to pay attention to its audience … The Herald has launched several initiatives as part of the Table Stakes project. But one in particular ties in with all the rest: the formulation of “INCs,” (short for incorporated.) Basically, they’re meant to be self-contained startups within the newsroom. The people running INCs aren’t just in charge of coverage, but also getting that coverage to spread on social media. And that means thinking digitally.

TONY BERNADOS PROMOTED TO PUBLISHER OF THE ST. AUGUSTINE RECORD via the Florida Times-Union – Bernados, vice president of revenue for the Savannah Morning News has been named publisher of The St. Augustine Record … Bernados will report to Mark Nusbaum, president of The Florida Times-Union and group publisher for the Morris Florida Division. Bernados, a 17-year veteran of the media industry, spent the last nine years with Morris Communications in key advertising and revenue roles including vice president of revenue at the Savannah Morning News, corporate vice president of Digital Media and Revenue at Morris Publishing Group, classified director, Times-Union Media and vice president of sales and marketing at The Augusta Chronicle. Before joining Morris Communications, Bernados held positions with Scripps Howard, Evening Post Company and Block Communications.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY this weekend to a true Southern gentleman and one of the smartest individuals in politics, Robert Watkins.

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