Sunburn for 7/25 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

Today’s Rise and Shine Fact-iversary is brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the state’s dominant public affairs PR firm: On this day in 1868, Florida rejoined the United States after writing a new state constitution that included freedom for slaves. This was a major step that helped Florida begin putting the Civil War behind it so the state could focus on repairing its economy.

Now, on to the burn…


Out of a seemingly hollow recovery from the Great Recession, a more durable if still slow-growing U.S. economy has emerged.

That conclusion, one held by a growing number of economists, might surprise many people. After all, in the five years since the recession officially ended, Americans’ pay has basically stagnated. Millions remain unemployed or have abandoned their job searches. Economic growth is merely plodding along.

Yet as the economy has slowly healed, analysts say it has replaced some critical weaknesses with newfound strengths. Among the trends:

Fewer people are piling up credit card debt or taking on risky mortgages. This should make growth more sustainable and avoid a cycle of extreme booms and busts.

Banks are more profitable and holding additional cash to help protect against a repeat of the 2008 market meltdown.

More workers hold advanced degrees. Education typically leads to higher wages and greater job security, reducing the likelihood of unemployment.

Inflation is under control. Runaway price increases would be destructive. Low inflation can lay a foundation for growth.

Millions who have reached retirement age are staying on the job. This lessens the economic drag from retiring baby boomers and helps sustain consumer spending.


Even though President Barack Obama remains stuck in a swamp in Florida, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dominates the 2016 presidential landscape, sweeping the Democratic field and topping former Gov. Jeb Bush and other possible Republican contenders by margins of 7 to 21 percentage points, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Gov. Bush gets 21 percent in a Republican presidential primary in Florida, followed by Sen. Marco Rubio with 18 percent, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas with 10 percent, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky with 8 percent, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee with 7 percent and New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie with 6 percent. No other candidate tops 5 percent and 13 percent of Republicans remain undecided.

Secretary Clinton takes 67 percent of Democratic presidential primary voters, compared to 64 percent May 1, followed by Vice President Joseph Biden and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts with 8 percent each. Another 11 percent are undecided.

“Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be taking some criticism recently in the news media and among some liberal Democratic precincts, but nothing has changed among average voters in Florida where she remains queen of the political prom,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.


Digital Journal, Florida poll shows Hillary romps; Rubio and Bush down – Clinton … not only sweeping the Democratic field, which is not a surprise, but also whipping the Republican opposition, including popular Floridians like former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio. CNNClinton polling well in key presidential battleground – Clinton is the clear 2016 frontrunner in the nation’s largest presidential battleground state … she remains queen of the political prom. Sunshine State NewsHillary Clinton Blowing Out 2016 Dem Field in Florida – … headed for a landslide victory in the Florida Democratic presidential primary in 2016. Chicago Sun-TimesHillary Clinton dominates Jeb Bush, GOP in Florida, poll shows – … voters would rather see another Clinton in the White House than another Bush. MSNBCHillary Clinton tops all potential 2016 GOPers in Florida – easily beating all potential 2016 GOP opponents in the battleground state of Florida … by a seven to 21 point margin. The Hill, Clinton dominates 2016 field in Florida – Rubio is narrowing the GOP gap as support wanes for former Gov. Jeb Bush.

And burying the lede … Fox NewsRubio regains 2016 momentum – Rubio … waging frontal attacks on Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, despite her “apparent lead over the GOP field in polls.”

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EMAIL WITH A NOT-AT-ALL CREEPY SUBJECT LINE: “Make Charlie smile on his birthday”


A new video released by the Florida Democratic Party asks what Gov. Scott is hiding in a deposition given as part of a 2010 lawsuit.

The 30-second spot, called “What is Rick Scott Hiding?” highlights Scott’s continued refusal to release the transcript of a deposition he gave six days before he announced his campaign for governor. Testimony was for a Collier County lawsuit filed against Solantic, a chain of 34 walk-in health clinics co-founded by Scott in 2001.

Among the accusations levied against Scott and Solantic claimed the clinics sidestepped federal rules on Medicare payments. Around the same time, clinic managers filed suit saying they were fired or retaliated against because “they did not want to enforce discriminatory practices” in hiring.

“Today, the Florida Democratic Party is holding Rick Scott’s secrecy to account,” says FDP chair Allison Tant in a statement Thursday morning. “Floridians have a right to know: did Scott’s company file false medical information with the state? What was Rick Scott’s role in the company leading up to the lawsuit? And what did Rick Scott say in his secret deposition?”

“One thing is certain,” she adds, “Rick Scott really doesn’t want Floridians to know what’s in that deposition.”


Quinnipiac University posted its press release about the governor’s race poll, and the news print story went into more depth about the context of the poll, which revealed better trendlines for Gov. Scott than Charlie Crist.

And as, I’ve said numerous times: It ain’t the topline, it’s the trend:

Strong leadership. By 54-38 percent, voters say Scott is a strong leader compared to Crist’s 49-43 percent. That’s close to the opposite of the April findings. Scott’s index has moved 11 percentage points in the governor’s favor; Crist’s index has moved 12 points to his detriment.

Truthfulness. Crist took a notable hit in appearing honest and trustworthy. His -9 index (39-48 percent) is down from a +2 index in April. That’s a net 11-point shift. Scott’s index is about the same.

Favorability. Only 40 percent have a favorable impression of Scott and 45 percent an unfavorable impression. But his -5 favorability index is an all-time high and a 2-point improvement since April. Crist’s 40-42 percentage favorability spread is an all-time low; a -2 index that represents a 9-point shift to his detriment.

Job approval. Scott’s anemic 43-48 percent job-approval numbers is his best ever. The -5 index represents a 3-point shift in his favor since April.

Compassion and caring. Does Crist care about voters? More say no than yes now. His index is -3, a 9-point shift against him. Scott’s index is worse: -11. But that’s an improvement from -17. Crist is seen as more compassionate than Scott by 12 percentage points, but the spread is 3 points smaller than it was in April.

Head-to-head lead. Leaving out [Libertarian Adrian] Wyllie, Crist’s 5-point lead of 45-40 percent has been cut exactly in half from his 10-point, 48-38 percentage lead he had in April.

AMENDMENT AIMS CASH AT CONSERVATION EFFORTS via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

For Florida environmentalists, the fate of the Wekiva-Ocala Greenway is emblematic of why they are taking the fight over preserving green spaces to the voters this fall.

Amendment 1 on the November ballot sounds like a godsend for green groups. If passed, the constitutional question could steer $700 million or more to conservation projects next year, and more than $1.3 billion annually within two decades.

But the reality of the amendment may be in the eyes of the Legislature, which would have broad authority to decide what types of projects could qualify for the money. Environmentalists say the amendment was spurred by projects such as the Wekiva-Ocala Greenway, which have price tags putting them out of range. Florida policymakers through the decades have devoted $183 million to assembling the jigsaw like pieces of the threatened 80,000-acre natural landscape of springs, swamps, uplands and rivers connecting Orlando to Ocala National Forest.

The amendment is designed to force lawmakers to steer 33 percent of net doc-stamp taxes into the state’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund.

Right now, doc-stamp taxes are split under a formula that steers more than $2 billion into a grab bag of programs for land conservation, parks, hunting grounds, water management, transportation, invasive-plant control and affordable-housing projects. Supporters say the redirection of more money into the land-buying fund won’t hurt other projects because the revenue source — real-estate transactions — is projected to consistently grow for the next two decades.

But state economists required to review its impact noted last year the amendment “may result in reductions to existing programs,” depending on how lawmakers decide to shift funds. For instance, they could provide level funding for many of the same programs out of the land-buying trust fund.


Facing a looming electoral deadline, a judge said he was “extremely skeptical” he could delay elections this fall using Central Florida’s illegally drawn congressional maps.

Instead, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis said he would make a decision by the end of next week on what to do now that he has found they unconstitutionally were drawn with partisan intent.

But now that ruling is running into the realities of the political calendar. With a primary slated for next month, thousands of absentee and overseas ballots already mailed, and a slate of candidates already lined up, lawyers for the Legislature and county election supervisors said unhinging that process now would cause chaos.

“We could have a new map tomorrow, and we still don’t have enough time for this election,” said Raoul Cantero, a former Florida Supreme Court justice and lawyer for the Senate.

Lewis also said he was unclear he had the ability to draw a new map himself, or the legal power to re-schedule a federal election. Legislative lawyers said he was bound by the dates specified in federal law; the groups that challenged the maps argued he had all the precedent he needed to either push back the Nov. 4 general election or schedule additional special elections early next year.

Lawyers for the League of Women Voters of Florida and other plaintiffs argued that lawmakers shouldn’t get a second-bite at drawing the map, and the court should require a re-arranged election schedule this year with a new map.

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More than 981,000 Floridians will get an average refund of $65 from their health insurers this summer because of the Affordable Care Act, federal officials announced.

The law’s so-called “80/20” rule, also called the medical loss ratio, requires insurers in the individual and small group markets to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on patient care and such activities as hospital discharge planning and nursing hotlines. Insurers in the large group markets, generally defined as those with more than 100 workers, must spend more on such services, 85 percent.

If insurers put too much toward profits and overhead, they must refund consumers.

Though the refunds are the most tangible effect of the rule, the primary goal is to help keep the costs of premiums in check. That’s not an easy savings to calculate, but the federal government estimates that consumers last year saved $3.8 billion in reduced premiums. Premium savings were defined as the amount that consumers would have paid if their insurance company’s medical loss ratios had not improved since 2011.

Nationwide, consumers are due about $332 million in refunds, a figure that covers both the individual and group markets, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services said. Floridians are getting nearly $42 million of that.

Floridians should have their refunds reflected in one of several ways. Individual policyholders might get their refund checks in the mail. Consumers with job-based coverage might not directly receive their refunds, which go to their employer.


Gov. Scott announced that GE’s Energy Management is launching a new facility in Clearwater, investing $50 million and creating 250 new jobs.

“General Electric Energy Management’s investment in Clearwater is great news for Florida families,” Scott said. “The creation of 250 jobs means more Floridians will be able to provide for their families and pursue their dreams in the Sunshine state. Florida businesses have already created more than 620,000 private-sector jobs since December 2010, and we will continue to create an opportunity economy where every Floridian can love the American Dream.”

“Thanks to the support from Governor Scott, Commissioner Roche and Mayor Cretekos, we are well positioned to more quickly deliver improved outcomes for our customers and solve some of the world’s toughest energy problems,” said GE Energy Management CEO Mark Begor. “From this facility, we’ll serve customers as close as Duke Energy right here in Florida, and as far away as Southeast Asia and South America.”

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Republican voters in House District 30 will choose between two conservative businessmen who say they want to create jobs and cut government regulation.

Longwood Mayor Bob Cortes and County business owner Scott Sturgill face off in the Republican primary on Aug. 26 to represent District 30, which includes parts of South Seminole and North Orange counties.

In a district that elected a Democrat two years ago, Cortes and Sturgill are largely steering clear of social issues and focusing on jobs.

Cortes, who owns a tow truck company and a shuttle service, was elected to the Longwood City Commission in 2009 and re-elected in 2012. He was chosen by his fellow commissioners to serve as Longwood’s mayor in 2014.

Sturgill, who owns a company that sells hardhats and other safety products, was elected to the Seminole County Soil and Water Conservation Board in 2012. He, too, said he was motivated to enter the race by state government’s need for his business acumen.

Sturgill is a fourth-generation Seminole County resident who grew up in Altamonte Springs and earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Flagler College. He lives in Sanford, which is outside the district, but plans to move into the district before taking office.

Sturgill was part owner of a company that sold safety equipment before selling out to his partner and starting another company in 2010 in the same field. His business, Durable Safety Products, is based in Longwood.

Cortes holds the lead in fund-raising and endorsements. He’s picked up endorsements from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Seminole Sheriff Don Eslinger and nearly 50 elected local and state politicians. Sturgill has been endorsed by Winter Park Mayor Ken Bradley, former State Rep. Kurt Kelly, Oakland Commissioner Joseph Patrick “Hap” McMullen, Longwood Commissioner Brian Sackett and Winter Springs City Commissioner Cade Resnick.


House District 61 Democratic hopeful Sean Shaw received the endorsement from longtime state legislator Sen. Arthenia Joyner.

Joyner served in the Florida House from 2000-2006 and has represented Tampa’s Senate District 19 since 2006.

In a statement, Joyner said she is often asked to endorse candidates; but this time, the former Senate Minority Leader volunteered.

“I’ve known Sean Shaw his entire life,” she said. “I know who he is as a person. He is a man of faith. A family man.

Shaw is a “committed and passionate community activist who genuinely cares about helping people,” she added. “Sean looks you in the eye, tells you the truth, and always does what he says he’s going to do. He’s one of us. He believes in us. I believe in him. He will fight for us.”


Mary Rachel Dudley, the wife of state Rep. Dwight Dudley, will play a judge in the CBS television series Reckless .

For those unaware of Reckless, the website IMDB describes the plot this way: “In sultry Charleston, where summer is long and secrets simmer behind every door, sex and crime walk hand in hand as two adversaries, a gorgeous Yankee litigator and a southern City Attorney, struggle to hide their intense attraction while clashing over a police sex scandal that threatens to implode the city.”

Mary Rachel Dudley’s agent advised her against any spoiler leaks. She said she plays in at least two scenes.

She has been acting for more than 25 years. Her father, John Michael Quinn was in The Alamo with John Wayne and also had a role in Dracula, directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

When he’s not making laws, Dwight Dudley said he often lends his wife a hand with her scripts.


First-time candidate Daniel Diaz Leyva announced he has surpassed $200,000 in fundraising for his  House District 112 race.

Diaz Leyva is the Republican challenger to incumbent Democratic state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez for the district that includes Coconut Grove, Brickell, the Roads and sections of Coral Gables and Little Havana.

Although the official Division of Elections figures are pending, Diaz Leyva’s campaign released a statement saying the candidate continues to lead Rodriguez in the money race.

As the second non-incumbent to have surpassed $200,000 to date, Diaz Leyva — who is not facing a primary challenge — is also only one of a handful of House candidates, including incumbents, to reach that mark.

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Candace Ericks, Adams St. Advocates: JM Family Enterprises

John Fuller: Sequel TSI

Jason Gonzalez, Shutts & Bowen: Ajax Building Corp

David Griffin, GrayRobinson: Orlando Magic

Ben Stuart: SAS Institute, Inc.


Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Bob Buckhorn and Rick Kriseman

Political Connections on CF 13: House District 31 candidate Jennifer Sullivan

The Usual Suspects which airs on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Steve Vancore, Gary Yordon, Dara Kam and Joanne McCall from the Florida Education Association.


In my late 50s, at a time of life when most people are supposed to be drifting into a cautious conservatism, I am surprised to find myself moving steadily leftward.

But since leaving newspapers, I have again and again found myself shifting to the left in major areas such as foreign policy and domestic economic policy. The things that are pushed me leftward began with the experience of closely watching our national security establishment for decades. But they don’t end there. They are, in roughly chronological order:

Disappointment in the American government over the last 10 years. Our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were the first big shocks.

Torture. I never expected my country to endorse torture. I know that torture has existed in all wars, but to my knowledge, its use, under the chilling term “enhanced interrogation,” was never official U.S. policy until this century.

How we fought. I never thought that an American government would employ mercenaries in a war.

Growing income inequality. I also have been dismayed by the transfer of massive amounts of wealth to the richest people in the country, a policy supported over the last 35 years by successive administrations of both parties.

Bailouts for bankers. When the economic bets made by the wealthiest Americans soured in 2008, the taxpayers picked up the tab. Bankers who got government bailouts continued to award themselves multimillion-dollar bonuses.

Democracy for sale. The wealthy, abetted by the most out-of-touch Supreme Court in many decades, also have been permitted to purchase an outsized voice in American politics. I am a First Amendment fundamentalist, and I do not think there should be many restrictions on what individuals do and say in the realm of politics.

Gun massacres. I am just sickened by our tendency to accept disturbingly more frequent gun massacres as the price of being an American. I don’t know what more has to be said about this. More than any other issue, this makes me despair. It just strikes me as insane to let it go on.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Melissa Dempsey. Celebrating this weekend is Bill Cotterell.

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.