Sunburn for 7/8 – 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 date in 1889, the Wall Street Journal was published for the first time. On September 29, 2007, a Journal headline asked: “Is Florida Over?” Apparently the answer was “no” – since then, the Sunshine State has added close to 600,000 residents and is on the verge of becoming the nation’s third most populous state.

Now, on to the ‘burn…

AP POLL: MOST VOTERS CHOOSE A POLITICAL PARTY via Jennifer Agiesta of the Associated Press

Whether it’s the Republicans or the Democrats, America’s political parties are far from beloved. Yet most people continue to align with one or the other.

Those who claim allegiance to the parties say they are driven by a mix of inertia, preference for one side’s policies over the other and feeling that one can depart from the party line when necessary, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll. Despite heated politics, few say they prefer one party out of dislike for the other.

But affiliation doesn’t always equal admiration: One-quarter of Republicans and 13 percent of Democrats say they dislike their own party.

Asked what it means when a person says he or she is a Democrat or a Republican, few mention longtime affinity. More people focus on the beliefs or attitudes held by the most visible members of the party.

About 6 in 10 Americans say they identify with one of the nation’s two major parties. That figure rises to nearly 8 in 10 when those who say they lean toward either party are included. Yet both Democrats and Republicans inspire unfavorable views by a majority of Americans, including one-quarter who say they dislike both of them.

About a third go so far as to say they distrust both parties to handle some of the most basic functions of government: 35 percent trust neither party to handle the federal budget, and 34 percent trust neither Democrats nor Republicans to manage the federal government or address the concerns of “people like me.”

For a sizable minority, that distrust extends to many issues central to the nation’s politics, including the economy, immigration, health care and America’s image overseas. Across all 11 issues asked about in the survey, more than 1 in 5 said they lack faith in either party to handle each issue well.


Obamacare open enrollment closed March 31. The White House’s Obamacare war room did not.

Most state health insurance rates for 2015 are scheduled to be approved by early fall, and most are likely to rise, timing that couldn’t be worse for Democrats already on defense in the midterms.

The White House and its allies know they’ve been beaten in every previous round of Obamacare messaging, never more devastatingly than in 2010. And they know the results this November could hinge in large part on whether that happens again.

So they’re trying to avoid — or at least, get ahead of — any September surprise.

Aware that state insurance rate hikes could give Republicans a chance to resurrect Obamacare as a political liability just weeks before the midterms, the White House’s internal health care enrollment outreach apparatus immediately redirected into a rapid-response, blocking-and-tackling research and press operation geared toward preempting GOP attacks on the issue.

In what aides say is a sign of a changed approach within the White House — but also heightened concerns around the midterms — they’re even coordinating with Hill Democrats, funneling localized background analysis and talking points to each state’s delegation through Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer’s Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. They’ve also relied on California Rep. Henry Waxman’s staff at the Energy and Commerce Committee to produce rebuttal reports, often in advance, on GOP claims about insurance.

They’ve got plenty to respond to already. “Empty Promises,” reads a heading on a recent fact sheet from Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso’s Republican Policy Committee, citing President Barack Obama’s repeated promises that premiums wouldn’t rise. “When Washington Democrats were trying to win elections and push their health care plan into law, they repeatedly said their bill would drive down premiums and health care costs.”

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CHARLIE CRIST ROLLS OUT FIRST TV SPOT via Kathleen McGrory of the Miami Herald

Crist rolled out his first television spot Monday, and it is intended to win over working-class voters.

The title of the 30-second ad: Sunshine.

“‘Sunshine’ reflects who our campaign is about: Florida’s middle-class families and seniors, whose lives have gotten harder under [incumbent Gov.] Rick Scott,” Crist campaign manager Omar Khan said.

The ad opens with the sun rising behind the iconic Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

“We’re famous for our sunshine here,” Crist says. “But for many, work starts before it comes up and continues long after it goes down.”

Crist goes on to say that he cut property taxes for senior citizens and middle-class families while serving as governor from 2006 to 2010.  He also says he saved 20,000 teacher jobs during the economic downturn, a claim PolitiFact Florida rated “half true.”

The ad ends with three campaign promises. If elected, Crist says, he will raise the minimum wage, demand equal pay for women and restore school funding.

REAX: “It’s fitting that Charlie Crist’s first campaign ad is called ‘Sunshine’ because he only wants to be around during good times. When times were tough here, Charlie instituted tax increases and teacher layoffs. Then he ran away.” — State Sen. John Thrasher


The Democratic Governors Association has funneled $500,000 to Crist.

The donation allowed Crist’s political committee to raise more cash from June 21 to June 27 than Scott and a Scott political committee, newly filed reports show. Candidates and their affiliated committees must now provide reports weekly.

The Crist committee — “Charlie Crist for Florida” — raised $625,150 during the seven-day period, including the money from the governors association, compared to the $262,000 for Scott’s committee — “Let’s Get to Work” — raised during the same period. The committee has raised a total of $9.34 million and Crist also raised $62,910 for his campaign account during the period, bringing the total to $3.96 million.

Scott continues his fundraising edge over Crist, raising $253,237 in his campaign account during the June 21 to June 27 period, for a total of $5.5 million. Scott’s largest contributor during this time was $100,000 to his political committee from The Villages, a Central Florida retirement community.

TWEET, TWEET: @AmySherman1: [email protected] to mayor house hop in Brow Tues: fundraisers at homes of Hallandale;s @MayorCooper, Bober in Hollywood and Ortis in P Pines


Two years ago the GOP-led Florida Legislature voted nearly overwhelmingly in both houses (116-4) to support a bill that would have allowed low-level, non-violent inmates in Florida prisons to receive drug treatment after serving at least half of their sentence. But it was vetoed by Gov. Scott, who boasted about it as he kicked off his “Let’s Keep Florida Safe” tour this morning at Patrick’s Uniforms off of Adamo Drive in Tampa.

“I’m going to oppose any changes to the 85-percent mandatory minimum law,” he told a group of reporters and well-wishers who gathered at the retail business, which provides uniforms for law enforcement and public safety employees. “Meaning if you get 10 years in prison, you’re going to serve 85 percent of that time. That’s part of the reason why we have a historic low in our crime rate.”

At the time of that veto in 2012, Fort Lauderdale-based state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff blasted the governor, expressing “phenomenal” disappointment about legislation that she said would ultimately save taxpayer money by helping improve the chances that inmates wouldn’t wind up back in prison.

But Scott was unrepentant when asked about his veto.

“We’re at a 43-year-low in our crime rate because we have an 85-percent mandatory minimum sentencing law, and I believe in that. I’ve talked to law enforcement, I’ve talked to sheriffs, police chiefs, they agree with me, and I’m going to continue to stand up for that.”

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gaultieri told CL he didn’t remember the specifics of the bill, but generally supported Scott’s rejection of that legislation. “I support the 85-percent rule. It’s proven to be effective. It is a deterrent.” But he added that inmates need to get treatment and need to be rehabilitated. “But you also have to pay your dues, and do your time.”

And Gaultieri said that while some may contend that drug offenses might not be a huge issue compared to violent crimes, he said they can lead to bigger crimes. “There’s other violent crime involved with that, and so I think having the 85-percent rule is a good thing.”


At least a half-dozen on-duty law officers in uniform took part in the above-described re-election event for Gov. Scott despite Florida laws saying public employees must avoid political activity during working hours.

Spokesmen for two of the agencies involved, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, said their officers’ attendance resulted from a misunderstanding. They thought they were invited either to provide security or that it was an official governor’s office event.

A spokeswoman for Scott’s campaign said campaign officials made the nature of the event clear in all invitations and announcements, but some of the officers present say they didn’t get the message.

Either way, the Tampa event provided Scott with a backdrop of uniformed law officers behind him as TV news crews filmed him talking about reductions in crime during his administration.

“All the police departments around here were invited,” said Hillsborough sheriff’s Col. James Previtera when asked why he and other deputies attended the event.

Previtera said some of the deputies were on duty and some weren’t. Asked whether deputies routinely participate in political events during working time, he said, “I don’t know anything about that.”

Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee wasn’t available for comment, but Chief Deputy José Docobo said Previtera was unaware the gathering was a political campaign event.


On Monday, the Florida Police Chiefs Association announced its endorsement of Gov. Scott in his re-election effort.

In deciding to throw support behind the incumbent, FPCA cited Scott’s record of backing Florida’s law enforcement and public safety initiatives.

“Police Chiefs across the state of Florida are thankful for the support of Governor Scott regarding law enforcement and public safety,” said Jupiter Police Chief Frank Kitzerow, president of the FPCA.

The FPCA noted that during Gov. Scott’s watch Florida’s crime rate dropped to the lowest in 43 years, according to the FDLE 2013 Uniform Crime Report.

There were 27,380 fewer crimes reported in 2013, 3.8 percent improvement over the previous year, representing a regular trend since Gov. Scott took office in 2011.


Another week, another campaign tour for Gov. Scott.

His “Let’s Keep Florida Safe” tour went to Tampa and Hialeah to tout a steady drop in the crime rate and his opposition to any changes to a 1995 state law that requires inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.

The Senate sponsor of that law? Charlie Crist, back when he was “Chain Gang Charlie.” Crime was a huge issue because of crack cocaine and killings of foreign visitors that threatened Florida’s tourist-friendly image.

But as crime has abated, the 85 percent law has relegated non-violent offenders to lives of despair behind bars. That’s why more and more Republicans say it’s time to give judges broader discretion in sentencing.

… (H) ere’s a guy who as a novice candidate in 2010 suggested cutting the prisons’ budget by $1 billion or nearly half, which could have shuttered dozens of prisons. It didn’t happen, and the system is still coping with a chronic budget deficit.

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Congressional candidate Gwen Graham released two new TV ads expanding on her theme of bringing a new attitude to Washington D.C., which she calls the “North Florida Way.”

The Tallahassee Democrat faces Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland for the region covering Tallahassee through Panama City and the eastern part of the Florida Panhandle.

“Boats” and “Results” will each air beginning Monday morning in the Tallahassee and Panama City media markets.


Graham later this month will launch an extensive tour across Florida’s 2nd Congressional District, visiting all 14 counties with members of her family, including her father, Bob Graham, the state’s former governor and U.S. senator.

Called “Grilling with the Grahams,” the eight-day tour will “highlight North and Northwest Florida’s unique people, industries, and values,” the campaign tells the Buzz.

“Gwen will be joined by her parents, children, and siblings as they cross the district talking to people about ‘The North Florida Way’, which focuses on working together to build consensus to break through the gridlock in Congress.”

The tour begins July 30. Stops will include the 45th Annual Wausau Possum Festival and a trip down the Apalachicola River. Most stops will end with a cookout. Possum, anyone?

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The Florida Department of Health shall deny an application if an owner or manager: 1. Has been convicted of a felony; 2. Was the owner or manager of a facility that had its license revoked; 3. Is under 21 years old; 4. Is a doctor who orders low-THC for patients; 5. Is a law enforcement officer; 6. Works for the Department of Health; 7. Lies on the application


Florida’s new medical marijuana law drew dozens of questions at the state’s first workshop aimed at crafting regulations for the non-euphoric product to be available under doctors’ orders Jan. 1.

But the Department of Health’s daylong hearing on implementing the new law was enough to harsh the mellow of many marijuana supporters.

Lawyers, growers, pharmacists and marijuana business organizations all took shots at a wide range of provisions in the 16-page draft rule floated by the department.

Much of the criticism centered on how the five growing and distribution centers scattered across the state would be selected and operate.

Questions about product quality, local zoning, security, and DOH’s proposal to throw the competition open to a lottery if more than one grower sought a license in a region dominated testimony from a host of speakers.

Under the legislation signed last month by Gov. Scott, five growing and distribution centers would be scattered across the state and run by longstanding nurseries. They’d be licensed to produce and sell the strain of marijuana oil only to cancer and epilepsy patients.


Tampa Bay Times, “Florida holds first hearing on medical marijuana rules”- Regulators hope that the process they put in place this summer for the limited strain could be a blueprint for the wider law if voters approve it. Miami Herald, “State launches process to set marijuana rules” – The potential industry already spawned a rush of businesses waiting to strike it rich in Florida – as the law passed by legislators allowing for the medical use of marijuana is considered just the first step in bringing the plant legally to Florida. Tallahassee Democrat, “State rolls out plan for pot industry” – Applications could also be revoked if a dispensing organization does not begin cultivation within 60 days of approval or does not begin dispensing within 120 days … The products would have to be tested to verify the THC-CBD content and for the presence of chemical additives. Palm Beach Post, “Harsh questions make marijuana workshop not so mellow” –  … the Department of Health’s daylong hearing … was enough to harsh the mellow of many marijuana supporters … “We are the victims of loose language today,” said Louis Rotundo, lobbyist for Florida Medical Cannabis Association. WFSU, “Florida’s Proposed Medical Marijuana Rules Leave Questions Unanswered” – … draft rules did not clearly enough define what a dispensary is, what a medical director’s duties are, what kind of insurance dispensaries should have or what kinds of “delivery methods” would be allowed to get the product to patients. WTSP, State begins work to implement new pot law” – Most speakers at the meeting agreed with the law … even a group opposing the November ballot vote to lower the restrictions of medical marijuana use agree with this law. The issue now, is how it should be used.


Florida’s largest nursery has contracted the services of a Tallahassee lobbying firm to help take advantage of the state’s newest market — growing and cultivating the medical marijuana extract known as Charlotte’s Web.

Miami-based Costa Farms has retained Southern Strategy Group, the largest lobbying firm in Florida, in anticipation of new opportunities presented by the limited legalization of medical marijuana.

“We are a large, family-owned business with Florida roots and state government considers many issues that affect our business operations,” reads a statement from Costa Farms in response to an inquiry about its reasons for lobbying-up. “In light of that, Costa Farms has retained the services of Southern Strategy Group to represent our interests before the State of Florida.”

The statement continues, “As part of our due diligence, the company is carefully monitoring the state’s rule-development process, as the final regulatory system will shape the nursery sector in our state in the years to come. Being a leader and job creator in this sector, Costa Farms has a responsibility to work with the State to establish a reasonable regulatory scheme.”

… Costa Farms, founded in 1961 by Jose Costa Sr., is a third generation family-owned Florida business with a global reach of more than 4,200 acres and 2,800 employees. Costa is now examining the possibility of adding medical marijuana to its core business, becoming one of the five state-sanctioned Charlotte’s Web producers in Florida.

Currently, Costa offers more than 1,500 varieties of indoor house plants and bedding plants.

As one of the largest plant sales outlets in the Southeast, Costa’s infrastructure also includes merchandising and transportation, with domestic operations in South Florida and North Carolina, as well as overseas branches in the Dominican Republic and the Far East.


Many of those in attendance Monday had not registered yet as executive branch lobbyists. In fact, there is still no category for the “marijuana” industry in the Legislature’s lobbyist registry.

But it’s a growing industry, literally, and the lobbyists crowded the room – creating a standing room only scene at what is normally a dull rules hearing.

In the audience was Louis Rotundo and Ron Watson of the Florida Medical Cannabis Association. Jeff Sharkey and Taylor Biehl of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida came with their prospective investors too.

It’s not clear where some lobbyists are affiliated. Jorge Chamizo, Dave Roberts, Ron Greenstein, Doug Mannheimer, and John Lockwood were working but none seems to be registered yet. Steve Schale is registered for Sanctuary Cannabis, a Weston-based company seeking to develop the product in the Southeast region. Susan Goldstein is working for another Broward-based company, Innovative industries of Pompano.

Justin Sayfie said he has a few prospects he’s working on but nothing firm. Jon Moyle represents the Stanley Brothers, who developed the trademarked “Charlotte’s Web” in Colorado, and the family working closely with bringing the strain to Florida, Peyton and Holly Moseley of Pensacola.

Even Rep. Doug Holder, who is term limited out of office in November, appeared to be scouting out prospects as he roamed in and out of the hearing room Monday with a legal pad of notes. (State law prohibits former legislators from lobbying the Legislature for two years but can freely lobby state agencies and other elements of the executive branch.)

FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE DAY via Rep. Katie Edwards — “He who makes the rules rules.” 

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Seeking to improve care and lower costs, Florida this month became the first state to offer a Medicaid health plan designed exclusively for people with serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar conditions.

The plan — offered by Avon, Conn.-based Magellan Complete Care — is part of a wave of state experimentation to coordinate physical and mental health care for those enrolled in Medicaid.

Mental illness is a big driver of Medicaid costs because it is twice as prevalent among beneficiaries of the public insurance program for the poor as it is among the general population. Studies show that enrollees with mental illness, who also have chronic physical conditions, account for a large share of Medicaid spending.

Yet many Medicaid programs, including Florida’s, have traditionally contracted with separate companies to provide coverage for mental health services, making coordination more difficult.

“We don’t want to have a situation where your brain is in one HMO, your teeth are in a second HMO and your eyes are in a third HMO,” said Florida Medicaid Director Justin Senior. “Your whole head should be in the same organization and that is why we have done this reorganization.”

About 140,000 low-income Floridians are likely to be eligible, and Magellan predicts about 20,000 will participate voluntarily in the first year. Medicaid recipients who meet the plan’s criteria will automatically be assigned to it by the state, though they have the option to switch to a different managed care plan within 90 days of enrollment.

Coverage began July 1 in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and then will roll out to other regions by September.


Michelle Rhee’s education reform group is scaling back its Florida operations, saying it wants to focus on policy battles elsewhere.

StudentsFirst will maintain a nominal presence in the state, but it’s pulling out most of its policy and outreach resources. Some of its leadership positions in the state, including state director, had already been vacant.

Lane Wright, the group’s regional spokesman, said StudentsFirst will keep operating in neighboring states. The group has been active in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

“We will still weigh in publicly on some education reform issues in (Florida),” Wright said last week. “We will not be as heavily involved as we have been with our outreach and our policy.”

Wright said the decision was shaped in part by the fact that Florida has already adopted more of its policy agenda than any state besides Louisiana.

REST IN PEACE: FORMER STATE REP. GENE HODGES via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Gene Hodges, a colorful Democratic state representative who represented Cedar Key and surrounding areas in the Florida House for nearly two decades, died Sunday at the age of 77.

A spokeswoman for the town of Cedar Key, where Hodges was a city council member, confirmed the death. A long-time colleague and friend of Hodges’, former Rep. Frank Messersmith of Lake Worth, said on his Facebook page: “My old buddy, former Rep. Gene Hodges of Cedar Key, left us today. He really was a legend in his own time. Rest in Peace, buddy.”

In an interview, Messersmith said he and Hodges roomed together for years in Tallahassee along with a third lawmaker, Rep. Dick Locke of Inverness. Messersmith said Hodges kept his houseboat docked at Posey’s, a popular seafood restaurant and bar on the Wakulla River.

“Every Sunday, Hodges would get himself a bunch of mullet and we’d load up that houseboat and go cruising St. Marks and the Wakulla River and cook all that mullet,” Messersmith said. “Hodges had a great sense of entertainment. He was a funny guy. He was a magnet.”

In the House, the pace of lawmaking would immediately intensify when Hodges was handed the gavel and summoned to the speaker’s rostrum. “When things got really slow on the floor, we’d yell HOD-ges! HOD-ges! HOD-ges!” Messersmith said.

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Florida’s principal supporter of pro-medicine candidates is endorsing incumbent Sen. Jack Latvala in his re-election effort.

The Florida Medical Association PAC (FMA PAC) announced on Monday its support for the Clearwater Republican in Senate District 20, which covers most of north Pinellas County.

“The Florida Medical Association PAC is proud to endorse Jack Latvala,” said FMA PAC President Dr. Ralph Nobo. “As a veteran member of the Florida Senate, Jack has routinely proven he is an effective leader in reducing health care costs and government red tape in order to increase access to quality physician care.”

Latvala faces business executive Zahid Roy in the August 26 GOP primary, with the winner going up against Libertarian Tony Caso in November.


Republican Richard DeNapoli, who is seeking to replace term-limited Rep. Doug Holder in House District 74, is scheduled to hold a meet-and-greet event. Plantation Golf & Country Club, 500 Rockley Blvd., Venice. 5:45 p.m.


U.S. Rep. David Jolly and state Rep. Dana Young are expected to speak during an Associated Industries of Florida business leaders luncheon. TPepin’s Hospitality Centre, 4121 North 50th St., Tampa. 11:30 a.m.

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On Context Florida: During the recent “Leadership Blue Gala” fundraiser and statewide membership meeting, Florida Democratic Party leaders say it is very hard to recruit candidates for local legislative races. Daniel Tilson wonders why Democrats, liberals, progressives (and independents) put up with hearing the same old story, election cycle after election cycle. No matter what some people may think God intended, they cannot discriminate based on race, color, sex, religion or national origin; that is, says Martin Dyckman, unless the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision is precisely the slippery slope of which Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned in her detailed dissent. One week has passed since the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case known as Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., and Bob Sparks notes the overheated rhetoric misleading the public into believing Hobby Lobby is preventing the company’s female employees from gaining access to contraceptives. Many patriotic editorials and articles written during the July 4 holiday talked about the significance of the Declaration of Independence, mostly focusing on the preamble. Steve Kurlander points out that the Declaration is a revolutionary document signed by radical men. If it was read on a regular basis, the way we are governed might be a lot different.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Political campaigns, high-pressure and transitory endeavors by nature, are tracking down more information on voters than ever before.

At the same time, they have proved to be perfect targets for hackers, cybercriminals and other ideological foes.

Campaign operatives and cybersecurity experts say data mining operation are now an indispensable part of modern politics, along with increasing mischief aimed at cyber-campaigns.

They now have to contend with problems like stolen data, misplaced donor or voter information, and foreign intelligence infiltrating campaign servers.

Hackers working to humiliate politicians alter websites and credit card thieves found small online campaign donations the perfect way to test stolen Visa and MasterCard numbers, reports POLITICO.

”If the U.S. government, the Chamber of Commerce, Target and others who presumably spend millions or even billions on cybersecurity measures still have to contend with security breaches, hacks and so on every so often,” says Liz Mair, former online communications director at the Republican National Committee.

“It really shouldn’t surprise anyone to know that political campaigns are vulnerable to exactly the same kind of threat,” Mair tells reporter Byron Tau.

However, since campaigns are designed to win and not for the long term, security is a secondary concern.


For all the Internet quizzes out there — here is one that will tell you a bit more than which Saved By the Bell character you are or what your animal totem may be. Designed by Pew Research, and conducted in a scientific manner via 10,000 surveys across the nation, the “Political Typography” quiz offers a far more detailed and idiosyncratic look at your political ideology compared with others. Your answers to 23 difficult and binary questions gets you classified as one of eight political categories on a spectrum that includes the following: (1) solid liberals, (2) faith and family left, (3) next generation left, (4) hard-pressed skeptics, (5) young outsiders, (6) steadfast conservatives, and (7) bystanders. In doing so, your political composite is mapped as a whole and per question relative to the rest of respondents nationally, as well as compared to the group you are pegged with. This is a more complex, heady, and politically interesting way to view a political landscape that insiders well know as varied, but is too often presented as black and white.

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.