Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 8.22.16 — 8 days until Florida’s primary election

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.


It’s been more than a decade since voters in Collier County were faced with a contested state Senate seat.

But if the race between Matt Hudson and Kathleen Passidomo is any indication, Southwest Floridians have been itching for some mudslinging. There have been attacks on families and questions about who is more conservative. And with days just days until the primary both candidates still have plenty of cash to go after each other.

Hudson and Passidomo, both Naples Republicans are battling it out in the newly drawn Senate District 28. The district includes all of Collier and Hendry counties, and part of Lee County. Both are vying to replace Garrett Richter, an affable Naples banker who was twice elected unopposed to the Senate.

The race has become one of the most expensive state Senate races. It has attracted the attention of outside groups, which have poured thousands upon thousands of dollars into the district.

Hudson has raised $1.4 million — $504,119 in his official campaign account and $928,526 in his political committee, Making the Right Call for Florida — toward his Senate campaign. He has spent a combined $1.2 million on the race.

Records show Passidomo has raised $967,979 — $595,979 in her official campaign account and $372,000 for her political committee, Working Together for Florida — toward her campaign. She has spent a combined $866,337 on the race.

But even with all the cash being spent, the Senate District 28 race remains a close. A survey last month found 30 percent of likely Republican primary voters were still undecided in the race. The survey found 36 percent of likely primary voters would back Hudson, while 34 percent picked Passidomo.


Like Richter, Hudson and Passidomo are well-known, long-time Naples residents. Hudson has served in the Florida House since 2007, rising to the position of House Speaker Pro Tempore under Speaker Steve Crisafulli.

He also spent much of his time in office as the Chairman of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, and was among those whose opposed efforts to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Hudson has been campaigning as the most conservative candidate in the race, but outside groups — like Better Florida Fund, which is tied to the Florida Medical Association and the Florida Hospital Association — are hoping to use votes as a local fire commissioner and in the Legislature to paint him as not conservative.

“Their claims are way off base, Representative Hudson is clearly the more conservative candidate in the race, and regardless how you measure, all the evidence backs it up,” said Sarah Bascom, a spokeswoman for the Hudson campaign, in a statement.

He’s got the endorsements to back it up. Hudson has been endorsed by Republican Liberty Caucus, the Eagle Forum PAC and Florida Family Action. He’s also received the backing of Florida Realtors PAC and the Florida Professional Firefighters.

He may have conservative groups backing him, but Passidomo has Senate leadership in her corner. Richter, who since 2012 served as the Senate President Pro Tempore, endorsed her days after the end of the 2016 legislative session. Majority Leader Bill Galvano and Sen. Wilton Simpson, both in line for the Senate presidency, have been fundraising for her.

First elected in 2010, Passidomo has also been slammed for not being conservative enough. In ads sponsored by a political committee called “Conservatives,” focus on votes dealing with the Second Amendment and abortion.

They also go after her because of a 2008 donation her husband, prominent Naples land use attorney John Passidomo, made to the Obama campaign.

Passidomo has said the attacks against her distort the facts. She also said she takes issue with ads featuring her husband’s donation.

“What I’m very upset is a male opponent has the gall to questions whether I can be independent. How chauvinistic. The most chauvinistic thing a female will hear is she can’t be her own person,” she said. “It’s reprehensible in this day and age.”

The winner of the primary will face two unknown write-in candidates come November. Both candidates filed to run in the final days of the qualifying period, closing off the primary. Both live outside of the district.

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PRO-MARCO RUBIO SUPER PAC RAISES $1.7M – ALMOST HALF GIFTED FROM PRESIDENTIAL SUPER PAC via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Rubio’s super PAC, Florida First Project, raised $1.7 million in just over a month — including $800,000 from the super PAC that supported Rubio’s presidential run … Conservative Solutions PAC transferred $800,000 July 13, adding to $100,000 it previously gave the new Rubio group, run by many of the same people. The super PAC that supported Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who exited the race in deference to Rubio, kicked in $100,000. Other big donors: Larry Ellison of Oracle gave $100,000; John Rangos Sr., chairman of Chambers Development Co., gave $25,000; Richard Uihlein, CEO of Uline, gave $75,000; Frank VanderSloot gave $250,000, while VanderSloot’s business, Melaleuca, gave $250,000. Geo Group, the private prison operator that suffered a big blow this week, gave $50,000.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rubio will attend the Republican Part of Jackson County’s annual Reagan Dinner at 6 p.m. at the Jackson County Agriculture Conference Center, 2741 Pennsylvania Ave, Suite 3, in Marianna. Media interested in attending must RSVP to by noon.

PATRICK MURPHY RAISES $1 MILLION IN MONTH LEADING UP TO PRIMARY — Murphy raised $1 million between July 1 and Aug. 10. Reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission show he ended the fundraising period with nearly $4 million in the bank. Murphy faces Rep. Alan Grayson in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary. Murphy is expected to grab the nomination, and is already appears to have his sights set on November. The campaign has pre-paid $800,000 for TV advertisements this fall. The Treasure Coast Democrat will likely face Marco Rubio in November. “Our campaign continues to build momentum as we raise the resources we will need to defeat Marco Rubio,” said Murphy campaign manager Josh Wolf. “Patrick’s message is resonating strongly with Florida voters, and our campaign is well positioned to take on Marco Rubio in November.” The race is expected to be a close one. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found Rubio led Murphy 48 percent to 45 percent.

MURPHY’S DAD CHIPS IN $1 MILLION TO SENATE SUPER PAC via Jonathan Swan of The Hill – Patrick Murphy is getting a major financial boost as his campaign heads into the final stretch before the Florida primary, courtesy of a $1 million check from his father. Thomas Murphy, a Florida homebuilder, gave the seven-figure sum to Senate Majority PAC — the group’s largest donation in July, according to the Federal Election Commission. On July 15, two days after the $1 million check landed in the Senate Majority PAC account, the super-PAC announced to The Washington Post its plan to launch a $1 million ad buy in Florida. The reported aim was to help Murphy win his primary Aug. 30 against liberal challenger Rep. Alan Grayson, who is openly opposed by Democratic leadership. The Washington Post noted that the ad buy was an unusually early intervention for the leading Democratic Senate super-PAC, saying the $1 million buy was “its first-ever television ads in a Democratic primary, as it seeks to shepherd a top recruit through a competitive intraparty contest.”

CHARLIE CRIST PLAYS THE BOGEYMAN IN FLORIDA GOP PRIMARIES via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – In Republican primary races statewide, the ex-Governor’s signature white hair and deep tan are as much a staple of GOP contests as yard signs, Obamacare opposition and National Rifle Association endorsements. In Panama City, supporters of Republican Congressional candidate Mary Thomas slammed Neal Dunn, her GOP rival for Congress, in a television ad calling him a liberal and declaring that he backed Crist because he donated to him in 2009. Never mind that Crist was still a Republican then. Dunn’s supporters returned fire with ads blasting Thomas for working at the Department of Community Affairs when Crist was governor and “collecting her paycheck” after Crist left the Republican Party … in another Republican congressional primary, John Rutherford and Hans Tanzler have both pointed to donations the other made to Crist more than seven years ago as proof they lack conservative credentials. And in the U.S. Senate race, Republican Carlos Beruff has been running ads aimed at Fox News audiences comparing Rubio‘s presidential ambitions to Crist’s political aspirations. The charge comes from Beruff who himself has been criticized for attending a Crist fundraiser in Sarasota in 2010 after Crist left the Republican Party. In short, Crist has become a potent weapon in Republican primary races. More than just being a Democrat, Crist touches a nerve with activist Republicans years later because of his 2010 party exit.

CONSERVATIVES UNITED CALLS HANS TANZLER “A LIBERAL INSIDER” IN NEW AD — The 30-second spot lampoons Tanzler for his cowboy gimmick, saying he acts like a cowboy, but is really “a high priced lawyer and a political insider who got rich off our tax dollars.” The ad highlights claims that Tanzler used political connections to get a job with the government. “In Washington, we need a real conservative, not a liberal insider,” a narrator says in the advertisement. The political committee is backing John Rutherford in Florida’s 4th Congressional District, and has committed $50,000 to a media buy. “Conservatives United had an early mail program to celebrate the genuine conservatism of Sheriff Rutherford. John spent 4 decades working to keep Northeast Florida families safe. In the final stretch, because Hans Tanzler has distorted and lied about the Sheriff’s record, Conservatives United [opted] to tell the community the truth about Tanzler,” said Conservatives United spokesman Brian Hughes in a statement.

NEW AD SAYS JOHN RUTHERFORD ‘CAN’T BE TRUSTED’ — The new ad by Conservative Outsider PAC takes aim at Rutherford’s time as sheriff, saying under his watch Jacksonville’s “murder rates soared and so did Rutherford’s budget.” The ad goes on to say: “Your tax dollars spent on bureaucratic waste and fat pensions, all the while Jacksonville became the murder capital of Florida. Now Rutherford is running for Congress where he’ll get a big salary and another pension. Rutherford didn’t protect our tax dollars or our families. He can’t be trusted.” The political committee supports Hans Tanzler in Florida’s 4th Congressional District.

— “Rutherford gains edge in 4th District House race; although undecideds have big lead in race” via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union

CORRINE BROWN PROMISES 99-YEAR-OLD WOMAN BREAKFAST, STANDS HER UP via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Brown attended a breakfast fundraiser for her re-election campaign headlined by Martin Luther King III. Unfortunately, not everyone who expected to be at the event was there. Virgie Coleman, a 99-year-old woman who Brown met during a visit to the Lane Wiley Senior Center where Coleman volunteers three times a week, was not there. Why does Coleman’s absence matter? Because Brown, after taking photographs with Coleman, told the almost-centenarian that she would be picked up Saturday morning for the breakfast. Coleman says Brown told her a limousine would pick her up at 9 o’clock. Coleman woke up at 5 a.m. to get ready. “I was on time, bathed, dressed,” Coleman said. She dressed in her best outfit, one appropriate for meeting dignitaries. She put on pantyhose and everything else a woman of her generation might wear when dressing to impress. However, as 9 a.m. rolled around … and then 10 a.m. … and then 11 a.m., it became clear Congresswoman Brown would not deliver. Twenty-five people waited to see Coleman picked up. But, like Coleman, they were left disappointed.

BRADY CAMPAIGN TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE ENDORSES SUSANNAH RANDOLPH FOR CONGRESS – The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is supporting Randolph’s bid for Florida’s 9th Congressional District, to ensure voters send a true gun safety champion to Congress. The Brady Campaign has taken on the Gun Lobby for decades, and the respected advocacy group said that it needs more allies like Randolph in Congress. “In the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting, a tragedy that hit so close to home, Susannah Randolph jumped into action. From the get-go, she got to work helping Brady and helping to build local support,” said Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “She is the leader this community deserves, one who will fight on Capitol Hill for the life-saving policies, like expanded Brady background checks, that keep guns out of dangerous hands. In a day and age where so many politicians limit their response in the face of gun violence to a tweet, Susannah Randolph is an all too rare breed of public official. She has Central Florida’s back, and now we’ve got her’s.” While one of Randolph’s primary opponents has earned A-ratings from the NRA, Randolph has been an outspoken advocate for common sense gun control. She has called for expanded background checks, reinstating the assault weapons ban, and ending the congressional ban on federally-funded gun violence research.

‘HAMILTON’ CREATOR GIVES TO DARREN SOTO’S CAMPAIGN via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and star of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,” is a supporter of Soto. So, it turns out, is his whole immediate family … Miranda chipped in $1,500 to Soto’s congressional campaign Aug. 2. He lists his occupation as “rapper” … “I think it’s very clear that Latinos living in the United States — their interests are bound up in voting this year … making sure people turn out is going to be a priority for me,” he told The Hill in June. “Our issues are on the table, from Puerto Rico to a wall to keep half of us out being a [Republican] Party platform. It’s important we get out and vote.” Miranda’s mother, clinical psychologist Luz Towns-Miranda, also gave $1,000 to Soto’s campaign on the same date. His sister, Luz Miranda-Crespo, ponied up $1,500 in December, records show. She’s the chief financial officer of his production company. And his father, Luis Miranda Jr., also gave $2,500 last year. The elder Miranda is a political consultant and “major player” in New York Democratic politics. Miranda, born in New York City, has a Puerto Rican heritage. Soto was born in New Jersey, but his father is Puerto Rican and mother is Italian-American.

FATIMA RITA FAHMY, FACING HER OWN FINANCE ISSUES IN CD 10, BLASTS VAL DEMINGS FOR HER PAC MONEY via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The latest criticism is part of Fahmy’s ongoing efforts to paint Demings, a former Orlando police chief who has dominated the only released polls in CD 10, as Washington D.C.’s choice for Orlando, not the other way around. Fahmy’s crusade against Demings is an effort sometimes joined by other Democrats in the CD 10 race, businessman Bob Poe and state Sen. Geraldine Thompson. They’re all frustrated that national party organizations are pouring or steering money, staff, endorsements and other help into Demings’ campaign even though there is a primary with other viable Democrats. Fahmy, a family lawyer who lacks Poe’s campaign money and Thompson’s successful election record, is the least viable of Demings’ three challengers this year. Yet Fahmy also has been the most visible and vocal critical of Demings’ Washington connections. Fahmy has even crashed or protested private Demings meetings with Washington leaders. This time Fahmy argued that Demings’ huge amount of political action committee money seems to be indiscriminate, including money from tobacco, alcohol, Big Sugar and coal interests. “It tells us that she’s already bought and paid for,” Fahmy charged. “And if the DNC [Democratic National Committee] succeeds in getting her elected into office, they’ve got a foot soldier lined up to do their bidding and not represent the interests of the voters. It couldn’t be more clear.”

— “Bob Poe early votes on ‘Souls to the Polls’ day in CD 10 race” via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer

JEFF ATWATER ENDORSES REBECCA NEGRON IN CD 18 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – “Rebecca is one of us. She has lived and worked on the Treasure Coast and in northern Palm Beach County for nearly 40 years,” said Atwater in a statement. “She works every day on the school board to improve our classrooms and support our teachers. I know Rebecca will fight hard in Washington every day for our community.” First elected as the state’s CFO in 2010, Atwater has deep roots in the community. He was elected as vice mayor of North Palm Beach in 1993. He was elected to the Florida House in 2000. Two years later, he was elected to the Florida Senate, where he went on to serve as Senate President. Negron, the wife of Senate President Designate Joe Negron, faces Republicans Carl DominoMark FreemanRick KozellBrian Mast and Noelle Nikpour in the Aug. 30 primary. A registered nurse, she has served on the Martin County School board since 2012.

FRANCIS ROONEY STILL LEADS MONEY RACE FOR CD 19 via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – Even without putting in his own money, Rooney would be far ahead of his competitors for the Aug. 30 primary — Sanibel Councilman Chauncey Goss and former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino. Since announcing his bid for U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson’s seat barely three months ago, Rooney has raised $691,391. Bongino and Goss have raised significantly less at $321,417 and $295,465, respectively. When you add the money Rooney has given his campaign – $3.2 million – the game becomes drastically different. Now, Rooney is in a position to do things his opponents cannot, such as spending upward of a million dollars on television ads to reach voters across Lee County, who likely don’t otherwise know him. And that is exactly what he has done. In this sprint of a race, Rooney has spent $1.5 million on media, much of it going to television.

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ HAS 10 POINT LEAD OVER CHALLENGER TIM CANOVA, POLL SHOWS via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – The Sun Sentinel/FAU poll found Wasserman Schultz was the choice of 50 percent of likely Democratic voters in the Broward/Miami-Dade County 23rd Congressional District. Canova had 40 percent. Each candidate can point to something positive in the findings. “He’s doing better, at least in our polling numbers, than typically a challenger to an incumbent does,” said FAU political scientist Kevin Wagner. “Ideally, if you’re the incumbent, you’d like to have a bigger cushion. But I don’t think there’s an election where a person looks at a poll and sees they’re up by double digits and thinks that’s a bad thing.” The incumbent was preferred by men, older voters, people who voted for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary, and those with a favorable view of President Barack Obama. Women also supported Wasserman Schultz, but not as strongly as men. The challenger was ahead with younger voters, people who wanted Bernie Sanders to win the presidential nomination, and those who have an unfavorable view of Obama. The district is so overwhelmingly Democratic that the winner of the Canova-Wasserman Schultz primary is virtually guaranteed to win the November general election.

— “Canova raises more than Wasserman Schultz, continues to spend heavily” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

JOE GARCIA’S OPPONENTS SAY PHOTOS SHOW CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE BUYING A DILDO via Francisco Alvarado of the Miami New Times – An unknown paparazzo recently snapped a photo of Garcia standing in front of a vast array of dildos and vibrators at the novelty chain’s store at Dolphin Mall. Wearing a crisp white guayabera and dress slacks, Garcia holds a couple of boxes of what appear to be sex toys. “That was him buying a gift at the Dolphin Mall,” said Garcia campaign spokesman Juan Peñalosa. He declined further comment. We don’t know for whom Garcia bought the items or whether he contemplated the speeds, durability, and battery life of the mechanical phalluses before his purchase. But this being the Golden Age of Oversharing, the photos made it into the hands of rabid, homophobic Miami right-wingers. On Monday, self-described former journalist and Southwest Miami Senior High alum Rubi Valdes posted the photo on her Facebook page with the following caption: “News Just In; Joe Garcia Buying Sex Toys for His Own Personal Use According to Sources …” Valdes did not respond to a Facebook message asking her about her post or her supposed “sources.” Then came the comments. A man named Ricardo Debayles wrote, “Joe Garcia es pato?” And Luis Jerez called Garcia “yegua.” In Cuban slang, the Spanish words for “duck” and “mare,” respectively, are used as derogatory terms for gay men.


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CANDIDATES USE RICK SCOTT’S PRAISE TO TRY TO BOOST THEIR PRIMARY CHANCES via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Ritch Workman in Senate District 17 and Kathleen Passidomo in Senate District 28 have released advertisements featuring Scott. In both of the ads, Scott is shown touting their accomplishments. “When Gov. Scott needed a big job done, he called in the Workman,” an announcer says in a 30-second spot for Workman. ”He’s one of the hardest working members of the Florida Legislature, and I got to work closely with him when we passed the single largest tax cut package in Florida’s history,” says Scott in the advertisement. The footage is from public event both men attended. So is the footage used in a 30-second spot for Passidomo, where Scott is shown saying she has “shown an incredible commitment to our state and the people of her community.” Lauren Schenone, a spokeswoman for Scott, said the governor highlights lawmakers and their work during stops across the state. And she was quick to point out Scott didn’t expressly endorse either of those candidates. Scott did take it a bit further during a news conference announcing tourism numbers in Fort Myers earlier this month. But again stopped short of endorsing Passidomo. “Kathleen Passidomo is my neighbor and also is my existing state rep, and we have an election coming up and, most likely, she’ll be your state senator,” he said during the news conference. “She works very hard on your behalf.” Even when he isn’t quoted directly, he plays a pivotal role in campaign ads. In a Florida Chamber of Commerce advertisement supporting Doug Broxson in Senate District 1, an announcer says Mike Hill “broke his word to Gov. Rick Scott and opposed Scott’s growth plan, putting thousands of Panhandle jobs at risk.”

CITING CONFLICT, SCOTT PULLS STATE ATTORNEY FROM DOUG BROXSON COLLUSION INVESTIGATION via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Due to a conflict of interest, Scott has removed 1st Judicial Circuit State Attorney Bill Eddins from an investigation into whether or not the campaign of Rep. Doug Broxson illegally colluded with outside political committees. Eddins had requested to be removed from the case, citing the fact that he and Broxson belong to the same rotary club and the Broxson is the uncle of one of his employees. The case will now be handled by State Attorney Willie Meggs, who oversees the neighboring 2nd Judicial Circuit and is based in Tallahassee. The investigation was prompted after a complaint was filed to Eddins office after a [report] on a voicemail message Broxson, of Gulf Breeze, left on fellow House member and primary opponent Mike Hill‘s cellphone that indicated he was talking to outside groups. The two are running in a heated primary for Senate District 1, which includes Santa Rosa, Escambia and parts of Okaloosa counties. It is being vacated by Republican Greg Evers, who is running for Congress.

ED NARAIN, AUGIE RIBEIRO TRADE BARBS AT TIGER BAY via Caitlin Johnson of the Tampa Bay Times – Tensions flared among Florida State Senate District 19 candidates during a joint appearance just 11 days before what’s expected to be a close Democratic primary vote to replace Arthenia Joyner … Rep. Narain and lawyer Ribeiro exchanged verbal blows during the Tampa Tiger Bay Club appearance, most of them focusing on a spate of campaign mailers Ribeiro sent painting Narain as a Republican based on his campaign donors. Narain has received more than $40,000 from insurance companies and more than $34,000 from utility companies. Narain addressed the matter in his opening statement. “You’re probably getting the mailers saying I’m a Republican,” Narain said. “That just isn’t true.” Narain said he uses the same donor list as most other Democrats in the state, but that doesn’t mean he is accountable to those sources. “Just because you received a contribution from somebody doesn’t mean they get to tell you how to vote or what to do,” he said, answering a question about how donations influence candidates. “I reject the idea that any candidates are bought and sold. Those nasty mailers that are sent out … not only are they uncalled for, but they are dead wrong.” Ribeiro didn’t back down, listing some of Narain’s donors and comparing them to his. “I’ve raised money through friends and family so I don’t have to take the money from the special interests and corporations that I want to take down for the consumers,” Ribeiro said. “The people should know that Mr. Narain took money from these corporations.”

POLL: GARY FARMER LEADING IN SD 34 DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Farmer has established a seven-point lead over state Rep. Gwyn Clarke-Reed and former state Rep. Jim Waldman in the Democratic primary contest for Florida’s Senate District 34. The poll finds Farmer with 28 percent support, Clarke-Reed with 21 percent and Waldman with 13 percent. Significantly, 39 percent of those polled were still undecided in the district, which follows the Atlantic Coast from Fort Lauderdale through Boynton Beach. The tracking poll, done for Associated Industries of Florida, reached 300 likely Democratic voters by cell phone, and has a six percent margin of error. Farmer’s ballot position is predominantly coming from his lead among older white voters and his surprisingly high share of the African-American electorate. Farmer shows leads among every key demographic including females, males, voters over 65, voters who have voted in only one of the last two primaries.

JACKIE TOLEDO SAYS ‘SPOUSES DON’T ALWAYS AGREE’ UPON NEWS THAT HER HUSBAND AIDED UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS IN 2014 via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Toledo sent out a mailer to voters in House District 60 that said if elected to the Florida Legislature, she’d work to repeal two immigration laws passed by the Republican majority in 2014. The campaign mailer says, “Jackie Toledo: Cracking down on Benefits for Illegal Aliens.” Toledo is a native of Peru who came to the U.S. legally with her parents. Her husband, Jose, is an immigration attorney in Tampa, and according to a story in the Florida Bar News dated Oct. 1, 2014, he “set out on his own to see the people crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S.A.” … I’m willing to help any of these children,” Toledo said. “I have five children. I would have a hard time telling any of them, ‘You have to go cross through these countries on your own.’ But they are so desperate, and this was the only way … I’m of Cuban descent and it reminds of the Pedro Pan movement, which was spearheaded by the [Catholic] Church. I would welcome any help from any organization.” It was during that period of time that waves of Central American migrants — many of them children — tried to reach the U.S., risking detention by law enforcement, abuse by human traffickers, and dire conditions along the way. The Mexican government detained close to 92,000 Central American migrants from October 2014 to April 2015. “Spouses don’t always agree on everything and this is one of those instances,” said Ryan Wiggins, a spokesperson for Toledo’s campaign. “While her husband has a law practice to run, it is Jackie, not her husband, who is running for office. Jackie stands by what she has already said on this issue.”

TEMPERS FLARE IN CONTENTIOUS HD 70 RACE OVER KEY LGBT ENDORSEMENT via Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times – The hiring of a prominent African-American activist and an endorsement from the Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas County has splintered the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the House District 70 race. The rift has triggered scathing attacks between two rivals in the Democratic primary: attorney Christopher “CJ” Czaia and businessman Dan Fiorini, one of the founding members of the Stonewall Democrats. After Czaia, 56, earned the group’s endorsement, he hired Theresa “Momma Tee” Lassiter — who calls homosexuality a “sin.” Days before Lassiter endorsed Czaia, he paid her $1,000 to provide advice on African-American issues. Since then, the insults escalated — then dominated — an LGBT debate at the Manatee County Democratic Party headquarters …  Czaia and Fiorini are battling Wengay Newton, the former St. Petersburg City Council member, in the race to represent a district that includes Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties. Fiorini, 60, has called on the Stonewall Democrats to withdraw the endorsement. He said the gay community is “paying attention to this” and is “rightfully outraged … It’s outrageous,” Fiorini added. “Momma Tee is a known homophobe. You have to look at the company Czaia keeps.” Another current member also wants the Stonewall Democrats to withdraw the endorsement. “When more of the gay community find out about this,” Steven McHugh said, “they’re going to flip.”

SOURCE OF DONATIONS BECOMES ISSUE IN JOE GRUTERS-STEVE VERNON RACE via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – State House candidate Gruters learned that when his opponent, Vernon, went after him as an establishment shill beholden to his well-heeled donors. Now Gruters and his allies are raising questions about whether Vernon shares the fringe views of a major donor, a man who has been pushing a concept associated with extremist groups. Manatee County resident Rodger Dowdell gave Vernon $1,000, the maximum allowed by law. Last year, Dowdell brought a proposal to the Sarasota County Charter Review Board that has roiled the normally low-key elected body. Dowdell wanted the board to support putting a referendum to voters that would create a “people’s common law grand jury.” Such a system would allow average citizens to indict government officials on corruption without going through a judge or law enforcement agencies. The people’s grand jury idea has been linked to the sovereign citizen movement, which does not recognize government authority in many areas. Sovereign citizens have attracted attention for everything from refusing to pay taxes and use driver’s licenses to so-called “paper terrorism” — filing frivolous lawsuits against government officials— and even, in extreme cases, violent acts against government workers and institutions. The FBI considers extremists within the sovereign citizen movement to be domestic terrorists. Dowdell is a state coordinator for the National Liberty Alliance. The group has disavowed the sovereign citizen movement but the Anti-Defamation League considers the alliance a major promoter of sovereign citizen ideology. Vernon — a former Tea Party Manatee president — praised Dowdell, whom he met through other tea party groups. “Rodger’s a fine man, he’s a wonderful person,” Vernon said. Asked about the people’s grand jury, Vernon said he only is vaguely familiar with the concept.


Brian Hodgers, running for Florida House District 52, has been endorsed by the Florida Medical Association PAC (FMA PAC).

Rena Fraser, running for Florida house District 59, has been endorsed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Florida.


— “Big-money Democrats face off in Broward Senate race” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald

— “Some of state’s most contested House races will be in Northeast Florida” via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union

— “Osceola state House race pits incumbent against 2 challengers” via Susan Jacobson of the Orlando Sentinel

***Smith, Bryan & Myers is an all-inclusive governmental relations firm located in Tallahassee. For more than three decades, SBM has been working with our clients to deliver their priorities through strategic and effective government relations consulting that has led us to become one of Tallahassee’s premier governmental relations firms today.***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will highlight jobs at 9:30 a.m. at MSD, 17251 Alico Center Road, Unit 1 in Fort Myers. He’ll then visit Jose de Diego Middle School, 3100 NW 5th Ave. in Miami at 2:30 p.m., before hosting a Zika preparedness roundtable at 3:05 p.m. at De Hostos Senior Center, 2902 NW 2nd Ave. in Miami. He will be joined in Miami by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

HEARINGS TO START ON $1.3 BILLION RATE HIKE FPL SEEKS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Florida Power & Light’s proposal to increase customer rates $1.3 billion over three years will be on trial … as the state’s largest electric company asks permission to raise customer bills and be rewarded for “superior service” with the ability to earn higher profits. But more than rates will be challenged as a long list of opponents ask state regulators to reject the rate increase and order FPL to refund at least $800 million a year, arguing that the company has earned excessive profits and should be returning cash to customers. The opponents — from the AARP and the Sierra Club to the military, industry groups and the office that represents the public in rate cases — also want the Public Service Commission to stop allowing FPL to have customers pay for pipeline purchases, natural gas deals and other business decisions that they say investors should finance. And they want regulators to order the company to diversify its fuel mix to be more climate-friendly and less dependent on natural gas. If FPL gets its full request, the monthly base rate in 2019 for “typical” residential customers — 1,000 kilowatt hours — would increase from $57 to $70 a month, about a 23 percent increase. When fuel costs and changes in other fees are included, the total bill for the customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours would rise from $91.73 to $107.29 a month, or 17 percent. FPL argues that it needs to start charging customers more so that it can make enough profit to keep attracting investors to finance its growing fleet of power plants and provide reliable and affordable electricity to 4.8 million Florida customers.

ZIKA VIRUS NOW ACTIVELY SPREADING IN MIAMI BEACH, CDC EXPANDS TRAVEL ADVISORY via Brady Dennis of The Washington Post – Gov. Scott confirmed the Zika virus is being spread locally by mosquitoes in Miami Beach, a development that marks an expansion of the outbreak in South Florida and immediately prompted a new travel advisory by federal officials. “We believe we have a new area where local transmissions are occurring in Miami Beach,” Scott said at a noon news conference. The suspect zone covers about 1.5 square miles between 8th and 28th streets, and between the beach and the intracoastal waterway — a stretch that encompasses the city’s central tourist area. Health officials said at least five people have been infected with Zika there, including two who live in Miami Beach. One person from Texas, one from New York and another from Taiwan each have returned home but were infected while traveling in Miami Beach. The news marks a second front in Miami’s fight against local transmission of the virus. Previously, officials had pinpointed local infections in a one square mile area north of downtown Miami known as Wynwood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quickly issued a second travel advisory … saying pregnant women should also avoid the designated area of Miami Beach. The agency said that pregnant women who live in the area or have to travel there should take extra precautions to guard against mosquito bites, including wearing repellent. It gave the same direction for these women’s sexual partners.

WORRIED FLORIDA REPUBLICANS PUSH PAUL RYAN FOR ZIKA ACTION via Rachael Bade of POLITICO – Since lawmakers left town in July without an agreement on Zika funding — and keep pointing fingers at each other for who’s to blame — the crisis has only worsened … Now some rank-and-file Florida Republicans – who represent scared constituents clamoring for Washington to do something – are pressuring their leaders to get a deal done, no matter what it takes … The speaker’s office has tried to redirect the blame, pointing a finger at Senate Democrats who blocked a House-passed $1.1 billion rescue package because they said it wasn’t enough money and included partisan riders. … But with fears that their state is headed for a public health disaster rising, some Florida Republicans say blaming others is not helping them now. And the lack of a long-term plan is bound to hurt them on the campaign trail – if it hasn’t already. “I don’t care how it gets passed, it just needs to get passed,” Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo, one of the Republican Party’s most vulnerable incumbents, [said] in a phone interview this week … In Florida, the new front-line of Zika, it’s not that simple. House Republicans are finding that just blaming Democrats isn’t working, and they’re getting heat for Congress’ lack of a long-term plan. “The GOP are taking the majority of the blame,” said one senior staffer to a Florida Republican.

THE BEAT, AND THE BUG SPRAY, GO ON IN SOUTH BEACH DESPITE ZIKA THREAT via Lizette Alvarez and Nick Madigan of The New York Times – As local government and tourism officials emphasized that the safety of residents, workers and guests came first, it was hard to sidestep the obvious: Would tourists stay away from the island’s alluring beaches, hip hotels and just-about-anything-goes clubs? And if they did, what would it mean for the economy of Miami Beach — the superstar of the county’s $36 billion tourism industry? “As we said before, we will do everything in our power so that people feel safe,” said Miami Beach’s mayor, Philip Levine, stressing that “Miami Beach is having a record summer.” From one moment to the next, a new protocol has taken root, one gleaned from the lessons learned in Wynwood, the small arts district across the bay that became the virus’s first hub of active transmission in the continental United States. Wynwood has suffered a sharp decline in business. Some hotels here began to slip Zika information sheets under the doors of the guest rooms. Bartenders offered patrons cans of repellent along with their shaken martinis. Electric fans, already in use to soften the suffocating heat and humidity, were cranked up high, all the easier to thwart Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. At Meat Market, a steakhouse on Lincoln Road, a teeming pedestrian mall, citronella candles quickly appeared under a row of outdoor tables … moments after the news broke. Employees were asked to wear bug spray until repellent wristbands arrived. “We never really have a lot of mosquitoes,” said David Tornek, the restaurant’s chief executive, who said he hoped the problem was fleeting. He paused and added, “You hope that people look at this rationally.” The reaction from tourists here, many of them from Europe and Latin America, seemed to swing from panicked to nonchalant.

THE WORST THING YOU’LL READ TODAY – CONFIDENTIAL FILE ON MISSING CHILD REVEALS MOM’S RAGE, DCF’S BUNGLING via Carol Marbin Miller and David Ovalle of the Miami Herald – When Marjorie Dufrene’s hyperactive, developmentally disabled son refused to concentrate on his homework on Thanksgiving Day of 2011, she beat him with a belt so severely that he required surgery to restore vision to his left eye. When, two months later, the boy had trouble spelling his words correctly, she beat him again with a pink belt, leaving scratches and scabs all over his face. Whatever Dufrene’s demons, they were not yet tamed: A disabled family friend told DCF that Dufrene, homeless at the time, had commandeered his Miami apartment with an infant daughter, and terrified him into allowing her to stay. Yet a committee of child welfare administrators who met in Broward County late that April 2014 made a fateful — and, in hindsight, inexplicable — decision: that newborn Angela Dufrene and her twin brother were safe, and should remain in their mother’s care. A follow-up visit to inspect the twins’ home was never done. Weekly or monthly visits to oversee the family weren’t ordered. DCF walked away from Angela and her twin. And the agency never returned — until it was too late. When those same authorities were told last month that Angela had vanished, and her mother admitted she had tossed the youngster’s remains in a North Miami-Dade McDonald’s dumpster, a DCF supervisor summed up the agency’s befuddlement this way: “It is not yet known why or how the children were overlooked.” Diella’s death “underscores the necessity of pre-planning for children born into active cases, including the assessment of the home environment and implementation of services to provide the family and children with the tools and resources they need to reduce any existing risk,” a post-mortem concluded. The authorities in Broward knew Dufrene had recently been in a shelter, and was on a waitlist for housing. “The mother is in need of stable housing in order for her two [older] children in foster care to be reunified with her,” an April 2, 2014, case note said. “At this time, removal is not recommended,” the report said. The notes, however, do not specify what, if anything, the family’s caseworker was expected to do to ensure the newborn twins were safe and well cared for by a mother with a lengthy history of child abuse.

WHAT JONATHAN KILMAN IS READING: RIDE2MD, LYFT TEAM UP TO GET MORE PEOPLE TO THEIR DOCTORS via Nancy Dahlberg of the Miami Herald – Miami startup Ride2MD hit the streets this summer with its new medical transport service. This week it picked up a well-known partner in the on-demand transportation world: Lyft. Ride2MD provides efficient, technology-enabled patient transportation to doctors’ offices, outpatient facilities and hospitals. George Fernandez, Ride2MD’s CEO, believes Lyft could provide 25 percent to 40 percent of Ride2MD’s transportation needs, primarily for Ride2MD clients who do not require ambulatory or wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Fernandez, an executive in the health care insurance business before launching Ride2MD, said Thursdayhe was impressed with Lyft’s tool called Concierge that allows third parties to book rides on patients’ behalves, and its commitment to the sector, including bringing on Gyre Renwick, who used to help run Google’s industry sector for health care. “Every year, around 3.6 million Americans miss or delay medical care because they lack appropriate transportation to their appointments. We want to fix that. Getting a patient to their doctor appointment can lower the cost of care and increase the quality of care,” said Renwick, head of enterprise health care partnerships at Lyft. “Ride2MD has a similar viewpoint so our partnership is well-aligned.” For patients that do need wheelchair-equipped or ambulatory vehicles, Ride2MD partners with medical transport companies. A few weeks ago, Ride2MD began its service in Miami-Dade and Broward, and plans to move into Palm Beach and Monroe as well as Central Florida in coming months.

COUNTY: CAN A SUGAR LOBBYIST REPRESENT KEYS? via Kevin Wadlow of the –Monroe County commissioners, on record endorsing a freshwater storage area south of Lake Okeechobee to improve water flows into the Everglades, want to know where their paid lobbyist stands. Commissioner Danny Kolhage said at a meeting in Key West that he would not vote to keep Tallahassee lobbyist Frank Bernardino’s firm on a county contract. “They represent Big Sugar,” Kolhage said of the firm. “That’s an inherent conflict and I cannot vote for it.” The large sugar-producing companies … have objected to a proposed massive water-storage in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee. Everglades advocates contend such a water conservation area is critical to cleaning fresh water of agricultural runoff before sending the needed water south to the Everglades and Florida Bay. County Administrator Roman Gastesi said Bernardino’s firm has multiple employees who can lobby for different issues. “These guys are professional and in high demand,” Gastesi said. Bernardino was credited by board members with excellent work in securing passage of the Florida Keys Stewardship Act during the Florida Legislature’s winter session. That law sets aside some state money for environmental projects. Commissioner George Neugent said the uncertain situation with the lobbyist also “gives me a bit of heartburn … Where is he going to be on this issue? Is he not on our side? We could find ourselves in a potentially embarrassing conflict … If there’s a question between what Big Sugar pays him and what we pay him…,” Kolhage said, letting the question trail off. Gastesi said he would get a written response from Bernardino.


Doug Bell, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Epilepsy Association of Central Florida

Dean Cannon, Richard Reeves, GrayRobinson: Sysco

Nick Iarossi, Capital City Consulting: School Board of Brevard County

Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: CLM Group, Inc., SAP Public Services, Inc., Star Mountain Fund Management, LLC

Jennifer Wilson, Adams and Reese: Bridging Freedom

PERSONNEL NOTE – MELISSA SEIXAS NAMED DUKE ENERGY FLORIDA’S DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS FOR FLORIDA – Seixas will lead the Florida government and community relations team and and direct the company’s efforts to further strengthen relationships with county, community and civic organizations. A 30-year veteran with the company, Seixas for the past decade has served as the government and community relations manager for the Tampa Bay area working with leaders in Pinellas and Pasco counties.

GRIM NEWS KEPT PEOPLE AWAY FROM DISNEY, UNIVERSAL AND OTHER THEME PARKS, ANALYSTS SAY via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times – it’s been a cruel summer, especially for Orlando. Within the course of seven days in June, Orlando was stunned by the shooting death of Voice singer Christina Grimmie at a local venue, a massacre at the Pulse nightclub and a fatal alligator attack on a child at Disney World. Soft economies in Latin America, especially Brazil, and concerns about Brexit may have taken a hit on international tourism. Add to that mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus, and the typical summer vacation crowds appear to be lighter this year, analysts say. “We have a Florida problem, not a SeaWorld Orlando problem,” SeaWorld Entertainment CEO Joel Manby said during an earnings call with investors Aug. 2. SeaWorld saw a drop in Orlando attendance this summer, but increased attendance at attractions in California and Texas … in a possible sign of slow attendance, Universal in July announced it had lifted all its blackout dates for the remainder of the summer, meaning holders of the lowest tier of annual pass at Universal Orlando could get into the park when they would normally be locked out at the height of vacation season. Other parks are also offering unusually robust discounts and deals for busy periods. Walt Disney World confirmed to analysts last week that theme park attendance had declined in its third quarter, which it blamed on the timing of Easter vacations. But Disney leaders said revenue had still increased, meaning people spent more once they got there. Last spring, when theme park expert Dennis Speigel looked ahead for the summer, the president of consulting firm International Theme Park Services predicted a 3- to 5-percent increase in attendance and revenues. But then, one grim news story after another pummeled the state. “I’m thinking right now if everything remains where it is, it will be flat to maybe up a little bit at best,” Speigel said.

ALABAMA KEEPS ROLLING: TIDE IS NUMBER 1 IN AP PRESEASON TOP 25 via Ralph Russo of The Associated Press – The defending national champion Crimson Tide is the No. 1 team in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 for the fifth time overall and third time under coach Nick Saban. The Tide received 33 of 61 first-place votes from the media panel and 1,469 points in the poll … No. 2 Clemson, which lost a thrilling College Football Playoff championship game to Alabama in January, received 16 first-place votes and 1,443 points. This is the first time since 1992 that the teams that ended the previous season at Nos. 1 and 2 in the AP poll began the next season in the same spots. Miami and Washington did it that season. Oklahoma is No. 3 in the preseason poll and received four first-place votes. No. 4 Florida State had five first-place votes. No. 5 LSU, No. 6 Ohio State and No. 7 Michigan all received one first-place vote. A year after Ohio State became the first unanimous preseason No. 1 in the history of the AP poll, seven teams received first-place votes, the most in the preseason since 1998. Alabama has won an unprecedented four national championships in the last seven seasons, but none has come when the Tide started No. 1 (2010 and 2013). That’s one of a couple of trends the Tide will be trying to buck this season. The last preseason No. 1 to win the national championship was Southern California in 2004. Alabama is the fourth straight defending champ to start the next season No. 1.

TWEET, TWEET: @FLBarTab: So this is my last tweet. @bsfarrington is inserting the lethal injection needle. Fortunately it’s filled with IPA. It’s been a fun ride!

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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