Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 7.18.17 – NRSC targets Bill Nelson; DWS’s making it rain; First ad in HD 44 special; FEC sues David Rivera; Ryan Matthews joins Peebles & Smith

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Florida politicos, we want to hear from you! With about nine weeks until lawmakers and influencers head back to Tallahassee for committee meetings and are bogged down with committee reports, staff analyses, and budget recommendations, we want to hear what you’re reading for pleasure this summer.

Into nonfiction, historical fiction, thrillers? Tell us what’s in your beach bag, briefcase or on your night stand. Send an email to with what you’re reading by 5 p.m., July 19 to be included in our round-up.

And don’t worry, this is a no judgement zone. (For example, Jenna isn’t ashamed to say she’s currently reading “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.”)

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“NRSC takes aim at Bill Nelson in new ad” via Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News  The NRSC launched a digital ad running on Facebook aimed towards Florida residents. The ad is expected to run for the rest of the month. The ad shows a number of Democrats–most of whom are top GOP targets in 2018–praising the law, including a clip of Nelson insisting it will “reduce Floridians’ policy premiums” “As Democrats continue to grandstand without offering solutions, Bill Nelson’s broken promises are fresh on Floridians’ minds,” said Katie Martin, a spokesman for the NRSC, on Monday. “Bill Nelson should be held accountable for being dishonest with voters and being complacent in Obamacare’s death spiral.”

Jacksonville leaders endorse Gwen Graham for governor — Former Jacksonville Mayor Jake Godbold and City Councilman Garrett Dennis have endorsed Gwen Graham for governor. “Gwen Graham understands how important Jacksonville is to winning Florida. It seems like she’s here every week with a Workday and listening to voters,” said Godbold in a statement. “As governor, she will invest in infrastructure to build on our city’s success and help Jacksonville grow in the 21st Century.” Dennis said Graham believes ever Floridian “deserves a seat at the table,” and is fighting “to make sure every child has a great public education, no matter where they live or where they come from.” Graham faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King in the Democratic primary. “Together, Mayor Jake Godbold and Councilman Garrett Dennis represent the great accomplishments of Jacksonville’s past and the great potential of the city’s future,” she said in a statement. “I look forward to working with both of them to renew our promise to public schools, protect our environment, and create an economy that works for every Floridian.”

Pic of the day: Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, wife Connie Prince, and son Chris Latvala, a GOP state Representative, at Latvala’s Maine event where he said he’d make a decision about his political future by Aug. 16. (The younger Latvala didn’t telegraph at all when he tweeted “#IBackJack,” right?)

“Debbie Wasserman Schultz spends six figures after Tim Canova announces rematch” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald – DWS spent over $200,000 in the latest quarter of fundraising after Hollywood law professor Tim Canova announced a rematch with the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman in mid-June. Wasserman Schultz raised $217,526 in the second quarter of 2017 and spent $238,332, according to Federal Elections Commission reports. The longtime incumbent has $215,220 on hand.

Canova, who began the period with just $3,343 on hand, raised $38,117 and spent $32,819 for $19,641 cash on hand. Canova also loaned himself $10,000. The majority of Canova’s contributions, $33,822, were small-dollar donations under $200.

Florida Citrus Mutual backs Ben Albritton in SD 26 — Florida Citrus Mutual, the state’s largest citrus trade organization, has endorsed Ben Albritton in the race to replace Sen. Denise Grimsley in Senate District 26. “As the District 56 House Representative in Tallahassee for the past seven years, Ben has been our industry’s horse supporting us on everything from research and marketing to regulatory issues,” said Michael W. Sparks, executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, in a statement. “He’s actually the only two-time winner of FCM’s Champion of Citrus award. I can’t overstate what a help he has been to Florida citrus and I’m sure he will continue that tradition in the Senate.” The organization’s board of directors, which is made up of growers from across the state, unanimously supported the endorsement. “Representative Albritton is the clear citrus choice in this race,” said John Barben, a Highlands County grower who serves as FCM president, in a statement. “As a citrus grower himself Ben is uniquely qualified to advocate for us in Tallahassee. But even beyond citrus I think he will be a terrific Senator for the people, businesses and families of District 26.”

Bruno Portigliatti out with first TV spot of HD 44 special election” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Republican Bruno Portigliatti has launched his first TV commercial of the House District 44 campaign, an introductory spot declaring, “Now, you know Bruno.” … The spot is airing on the Fox News channel on the Spectrum cable network in Orlando. The 30-second ad, done by Consensus Communications in Orlando, then follows with several neighborly-looking people standing on front porches or a sidewalk declaring, “Bruno’s in my church.” “Bruno’s an experienced businessman.” “He’s not the politician that the establishment wants.” The 30-second ad, done by Consensus Communications in Orlando, then follows with several neighborly-looking people standing on front porches or a sidewalk declaring, “Bruno’s in my church.” “Bruno’s an experienced businessman.” “He’s not the politician that the establishment wants.”

Click on the image below to watch the ad:

Anna Eskamani draws 10 Democratic lawmakers’ endorsements in HD 47” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Democratic candidate Anna Eskamani announced the endorsements Monday of 10 Democratic members of the Florida House of Representatives in her bid for Florida’s House District 47. In addition to the endorsements from Democratic state Reps. Amy Mercado and Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando … the backing comes from Democratic state Reps. John Cortes of Kissimmee, Daisy Baez of Coral Gables, Emily Slosberg of Delray Beach, Evan Jenne of Hollywood, Lori Berman of Boynton Beach, Robert Ascencio of Miami, Sean Shaw of Tampa and Shevrin Jones of West Park.

“Elections commission sues David Rivera over campaign cash fraud scheme” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – After failing to reach a deal with David Rivera, the Federal Election Commission is suing the scandal-plagued former Florida congressman over much-litigated allegations that he helped prop up a straw candidate to help his 2012 re-election bid. The new FEC civil complaint breathes new life into a campaign fraud scheme that led to federal convictions for both Ana Alliegro, a GOP operative who worked with Rivera, and straw candidate Justin Lamar Sternad. “Rivera’s scheme involved concealing in-kind contributions by paying vendors mostly in cash to produce and distribute materials for Sternad’s campaign,” read the complaint, penned by FEC attorney Sana Chaudhry.

Jose Mallea releases ad featuring Jeb Bush ahead of HD 116 primary” via Florida Politics — The Mallea campaign released a Spanish-language radio advertisement featuring former Gov. Jeb Bush. The ad comes just one week before the special Republican primary in the race to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, who resigned effective Sept. 26, in House District 116. “Governor Bush is one of Florida’s greatest leaders, and I am honored to have him behind our campaign,” said Mallea in a statement. “I plan to keep working hard in the home stretch of this primary to make sure District 116 has a representative in Tallahassee who will work hard for conservative policies that will improve education and increase opportunity for everyone.” Bush endorsed Mallea in May, saying in a statement at the time that Mallea, a senior advisor to his 2016 presidential campaign, was “the right leader for District 116.” According to a translation of the advertisement provided by the Mallea campaign, Bush calls Mallea a “trusted friend that’s going to defend us.” “Jose will use his Republican values to work for you in the Florida Legislature,” he says in the advertisement, according to the translation provided by the campaign. “That’s why I am asking for you to vote for Jose on July 25.”

More legislative hopefuls file to run in 2018LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ reports several candidates filed to run for legislative seats in 2018. Democrat Timothy Yost has filed to run against Republican incumbent Rep. Clay Yarborough in House District 12. Yost is a Duval County high school teacher and a Navy veteran. Democrat Vito Sheeley announced he is challenging Democratic incumbent Rep. Wengay Newton in House District 70.  


HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson says senior housing is top priority” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising — Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson spoke Monday about the importance of using public-private partnerships to provide affordable housing for seniors. … “We have to help more people age in place, keep their health and their homes and retain their physical and financial independence,” said Carson, who told the crowd of 300 attendees that his mother has Alzheimer’s disease. “As a physician, son, aging American and HUD secretary, this is personal for me.” … To combat the problem, Carson said HUD is encouraging public-private partnerships by requiring developers to provide affordable housing, while meeting the needs of their high-end buyers through creative financing and leveraging. The government provides seed money, while the developers are the primary source of the funding. “This is a win-win for residents, developers and taxpayers,” he said. “Seniors must not become economic refugees in their own country, forced out of housing by their nation’s own economic progress.”

Francis Rooney to go python hunting in Big Cypress swamp” via Florida Politics — The Naples Republican announced Monday he plans to take part in the South Florida Water Management District’s python elimination program on Aug. 10. The program aims to eliminate the Burmese python, an invasive species, which damages the Everglades ecosystem and its native wildlife. “I am looking forward to hunting these devastating and invasive snakes,” said Rooney in a statement. “The python is a predator impacting the delicate balance of the ecosystem across the Everglades and the State of Florida.  Innovative ideas such as the Python Elimination Program incentivize members of the public to assist in removing this invasive species and remind us that we all have a vested interest in restoring the Everglades.” 


“Rick Scott reassigns 2 more Aramis Ayala cases, both involve alleged child killers” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – The transfers are like more than 20 others the governor has reassigned from Ayala to King since March, when Ayala, the elected state attorney for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, said she would not pursue the death penalty in any murder cases in her district under Florida’s current laws. This time the transferred cases involve an incident that occurred earlier this year, in which Callene M. Barton and Lakesha C. Lewis were arrested for allegedly beating the pre-school son of their other roommate with a window blind rod, and then throwing him down a flight of stairs. The boy died.

“Scott: Florida has no Zika outbreak areas, yet” via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times – We’re nearly a third of the way through summer, and so far at least, no Zika outbreaks. Last year, four people contracted the virus in late July when they were bit by mosquitoes in Miami, the first cases of it being locally transmitted in the U.S. … On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott gave the opening remarks at the Florida Department of Health’s meeting on Zika in Miami. We’ve got a long way to go, especially with the heavy summer rains still to come, but Scott said, so far at least, there are no identified areas with Zika transmission.

Gov. Scott gives opening remarks at a Zika virus preparedness meeting with state health officials, their Miami-Dade County partners and federal CDC representatives at the offices of Florida Blue.

Tweet, tweet:

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will attend the grand opening of Walmart’s new e-commerce fulfillment center, 5100 North Ridge Trail in Davenport at 10 a.m.

Assignment editors: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will make an announcement about concealed weapon licenses for service members and veterans at 11 a.m. at the National Guard Armory, 1225 Easterwood Drive in Tallahassee. He will hold a similar event on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. (CT) the National Guard Armory, 3121 Lisenby Ave. in Panama City.

“CFO’s office largely loses fight to get info from insurance companies” via Florida PoliticsA Tallahassee judge sided with life insurance companies Monday, restricting preliminary information-gathering by the state in defense of a new law requiring insurers to track down beneficiaries. The outside lawyer for the Department of Financial Services, which advocated for the measure, said he plans to appeal the decision that allows only limited discovery. “We believe, respectfully, that what you’ve done has gutted the case,” said GrayRobinson attorney George Meros, representing CFO Jimmy Patronis, to Circuit Judge Terry Lewis. “You’ve absolved them of their responsibility.”

Assignment editors: Rep. Sean Shaw and Councilman Frank Reddick will host a town hall at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at 2504 Chipco Street in Tampa.


Florida’s sober home industry continues to be put under a microscope, and a recent South Florida Sun-Sentinel investigation found the vast majority of drug overdoses in Delray Beach occur in neighborhoods where sober homes are located.

Ryan Van Velzer and Irfan Uraizee with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that nearly 70 percent of overdoses in Delray Beach occur within distance, or a quarter-mile, of a sober home.

The report found that neighborhoods east of Interstate 95 have seen the highest concentration of overdoses — 809 overdoses in an area where 111 sober homes are located. In the western half of the city, where nine sober homes were listed there were 243 overdoses.

The Sun-Sentinel also found that 5 percent of the overdoses happened inside sober homes. It also reported that overdoses increased more than 250 percent from 2015 to 2016; up from 195 to 690. According to the Sun-Sentinel, halfway through this year police have already recorded 412 overdoses, 37 of which have resulted in death.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, a legal opinion last year opened the door for more regulation of sober homes. The opinion said they city could deny a request if it would impose an undue burden on local government or fundamentally alter the city’s zoning.

The city, the Sun-Sentinel reported, conducted a zoning study in May, which found the city had a large number of community housing, most of which was sober homes. According to the Sun-Sentinel, the zoning report found 183 verified sober homes and 64 unverified sober homes. The paper reported that the study’s author “said he had rarely seen such clusters in his 40-plus career examining zoning and fair housing.”


“Florida’s fiscally responsible state government” via Dr. Randal Holcombe – A new study just published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University ranks Florida as the fiscally healthiest of all states—the product of decades of restraint.

The study by Eileen Norcross and Olivia Gonzalez uses 13 indicators to measure fiscal condition. Three of those indicators rank states with leaner budgets as healthier, but most measure the degree to which state governments spend within their means.

States rank high in fiscal health if they maintain a balance of cash and other assets to cushion unexpected revenue declines or expenditure increases, run budget surpluses rather than deficits, and have low unfunded pension liabilities.

… Florida’s state budget is not just lower as a percentage of income; the state government is actually spending less per person than in the past. Florida’s recently passed 2017-18 state budget comes out to $4,065 per person. Adjusted for inflation, expenditures per person peaked in 1999-00 at $4,457 and have declined steadily since.

… The question, then, is how Florida is making it work.

Florida has remained fiscally conservative as its elected office holders have changed. California notwithstanding, my current research shows that states with legislative term limits have slower growth in government expenditures.

Another factor may be Florida’s constitutional prohibition against state personal income taxation. Changing that would require 60 percent approval by voters, and that’s not in the cards. In the Mercatus study, the lowest-ranking state with no personal income tax is Washington, which comes in at 26th. The rest are in the top half.

“Mayor should pay what she took –  and resign” via Randy Fine and John Tobia for Florida Today — Mayor Carol McCormack has stolen $100,000 from the citizens of the town of Palm Shores. Yes, you read that right. For readers who are not familiar with the events that led us here, the town of Palm Shores in 2004 created a Community Redevelopment Agency, commonly known as a CRA, which is funded 100 percent by county taxpayers.  These bureaucracies are supposed to be used to remove slums and blight in communities.

In 2010, Mayor McCormack illegally hired herself to administer the CRA. She engaged in the crassest form of nepotism — hiring herself for a second job on the taxpayer’s dime. Commissioner Tobia, working hard to fulfill his duty to provide oversight over the use of county funds, discovered this illegal activity while reviewing the activities of CRAs. Having been caught, the mayor resigned her position as director of the CRA on June 9.

… The mayor did not make a simple accounting mistake which slipped through the cracks. … If she did make an honest mistake, she should personally pay the money back with interest and resign her position with the Florida League of Mayors in order to refocus on the basics of her full-time job. … If she refuses to take personal responsibility, she should step down as mayor — and should be criminally investigated.

As a member of the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, Rep. Fine will also look for any state oversight protections for the innocent citizens of Palm Shores. She not only stole this money from taxpayers, but has the hubris to have the Town Hall named after her. … We call on Mayor McCormack to personally pay restitution in full – or resign. Frankly, we think she should do both.


“Tom Goodson, others apply for Public Service Commission” via Florida Politics – State Rep. Goodson, a Brevard County Republican, is among 14 applicants so far for vacancies on the state’s Public Service Commission, according to a preliminary list released Monday. The terms of Commissioners Art Graham and Ronald Brisé are up at the end of the year, but both men have reapplied for their positions. They were last reappointed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2013. Applications for those two spots are due by 5 p.m. Tuesday. Applications for a third PSC opening, created when Commissioner Jimmy Patronis stepped down to replace Jeff Atwater as the state’s CFO, aren’t due till July 28.

Personnel note: Peebles & Smith becomes Peebles, Smith & Matthews with hire of Ryan Matthews —  The firm announced Monday that Ryan Matthews, who most recently served as the interim secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, has joined as a principal. “Ryan’s government background, both at the DEP and the Florida League of Cities, make him an ideal addition to the firm,” said Bill Peebles, founding principal and managing partner. “One of the primary reasons we are changing the name of the firm to Peebles, Smith & Matthews is to ensure our clients know they will be represented by each of our unique talents and skill sets.”Gov. Rick Scott appointed Matthews as interim DEP Secretary earlier this year. He served in that role until Noah Valenstein, the state’s new DEP Secretary took over the helm at the DEP. Matthews held several other positions at the state’s environmental agency before being names the interim secretary, including deputy secretary of regulatory programs and director of the Office of Water Policy. Prior to joining the DEP, Matthews was the assistant legislative director and member of the Office of General Counsel at the Florida League of Cities.

New and renewed lobby registrations: Slater Bayliss, Sarah Busk, Al Cardenas, Christopher Chaney, Stephen Shiver, The Advocacy Group at Cadenas Partners: Eckerd Kids; Nick Iarossi, Andrew Ketchel, Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Washington Intern Student Housing

On this week’s edition of The Rotunda — As web companies and activists band together in protest of the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed rollback of net neutrality rules, supporters of the change share their concerns with the current Title II regulations. On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, features interviews with Brad Swanson, president, and CEO of the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association, and Julio Fuentes, president, and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Gomes also examines why South Florida is leading the nation in high-growth tech startups. Joseph Russo the executive director of Palm Beach Tech, a non-profit trade association, shares his vision for building a hub for technology entrepreneurship in Florida.


Attention, Florida politicos and baseball lovers alike: The Winthrop Pak All Stars need your help.

The 12-year-old all-star team has been selected to compete in the Dizzy Dean World Series, which starts this weekend in Southhaven, Miss. Coached by Brecht Heuchan and Travis Blanton, the team is the only Florida team headed to the tournament.

The players, their coaches said, are “awesome kids” who are committed to practice and their team. But the team still needs a bit of help to make sure they have enough to cover the cost of lodging, uniforms, and other expenses involved in competing in the Dizzy Dean World Series.

Want to help? The team has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the costs of the trip.

— ALOE —

“AAA: Gasoline prices still could rise despite recent leveling off” via Florida PoliticsGas prices “have held relatively steady for the past two weeks, but now face upward pressure,” according to a recent advisory from the AAA. The national average for one gallon of regular unleaded is $2.25—that’s a penny less than a week ago, but three 3 cents more than this time last year, a news release said … In Florida, gas prices averaged $2.13 on Sunday, a half cent lower than last week and three 3 cents less than last year. “Gas prices could inch a little higher this week,” said Mark Jenkins, AAA spokesman.

FSU picked to win ACC conferencevia the Associated Press – Florida State is the preseason pick to win the Atlantic Coast Conference and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville is the preseason player of the year. The ACC announced voting results Monday following a poll of 167 media members who attended last week’s media days in Charlotte. The Seminoles were picked as overall ACC champions on 118 ballots while reigning national champion Clemson received 35 votes. Florida State also was picked as the Atlantic Division favorite while Miami was the top choice in the Coastal.

What Matt Dixon is reading – Politico now has 20,000 paid subscribers that account for half of its revenue” via Max Wilens of Digiday — On Monday, Politico (was) expected to announce a series of updates and a new product for Politico Pro, its subscription service, including a legislation compass that tracks the progress of bills making their way through Congress and a data-visualization product called DataPoint that now looks out across a wider variety of verticals. The new products come as Pro has gone from a 2010 side project to a 200-person operation that drives half of Politico’s yearly revenues. Over the past three years, revenue has grown 30 percent year over year, and it maintains a 90 percent renewal rate with its client base, according to the company. … After spending years focusing on selling Pro subscriptions to government contractors, agencies and other Beltway-focused firms, Pro’s sales team is now targeting higher education institutions and financial services firms like hedge funds.

Happy birthday belatedly to our main man, Phil Ammann. Belated wishes to former Sen. JD Alexander, Chris Berardi, Chris Dorworth, Alexis Lambert, Joe McCann, On 3 PR’s Alix Miller, Dr. David McKalip, Ben Stuart, and state Rep. Ross Spano. Celebrating today is state Rep. Jackie Toledo, Maureen Ahern, Dex Fabian, and Susan Latvala.

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.

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