Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 8.29.16 — One day more!

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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

ONE DAY MORE!

As Valjean proclaims in Les Miserables: Another day, another destiny. … This never-ending road to Calvary

Tomorrow we’ll discover … What our God in Heaven has in store! … One more dawn … One more day … One day more!

Tomorrow, hundreds of candidates will discover what the political gods have in store for them.

CONCLUDING OUR HYPER-FOCUS ON THE PRIMARY ELECTIONS: ALL EYES ON NE FLORIDA

Northeast Florida will see a number of hot races decided on Aug. 30. These include two races for the U.S. Congress, a passel of tate House races, and a local referendum that could present a solution to the city’s major financial issue: the almost $3 billion unfunded pension liability.

In the 4th Congressional District race, former Jacksonville sheriff John Rutherford is ahead in the latest public polling – 33 percent to 22 percent for state Rep. Lake Ray and 17 percent for Hans Tanzler.

Rutherford entered the race with strong establishment support, though as the weeks progressed Tanzler and Ray, and even St. Johns County Commissioner Bill McClure started to make moves. The three of them are splitting the anti-Rutherford vote, with Tanzler and Ray cannibalizing each other’s support. McClure, meanwhile, has made a populist outsider pitch, but hasn’t been able to make his support in other counties match his draw in St. Johns.

In the 5th Congressional District race, the question is whether Corrine Brown can hold off Al Lawson.

The last public poll of the race showed Brown and Lawson in a statistical dead heat, though as Lawson pointed out earlier this month, that poll was taken before Brown’s indictment on 22 federal counts.

Brown has not had the resources to run the kind of aggressive campaign she would have needed to introduce herself to voters out west, while Lawson is up on TV in Duval County, with a biographical ad that sets a definite contrast between the former state senator and the scandal-plagued Brown.

Looking at the state House races, meanwhile, we’re seeing some tight, contentious races headed down to the wire.

In House District 11, the question comes down to will Sheri Treadwell be able to hold Cord Byrd off?

Byrd surged in one credible internal poll in recent weeks; the trial lawyer was buoyed by an NRA endorsement. Mailers have been fast and furious in that race, as well as in House District 12, where third-party mailers have targeted the Florida Chamber’s preferred candidate, Terrance Freeman, as well as former Jacksonville City Councilman Clay Yarborough.

A big talker in this race: a third-party mailer that saw Freeman, an African-American, made to look like he has a darker complexion than he actually has. This mailer has gotten pushback from Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran. Will it get resistance in the Jacksonville market though, from voters who have already elected Yarborough to City Council twice?

In House District 13, incumbent Reggie Fullwood faces a challenge from friend Tracie Davis. Fullwood still faces fourteen counts of wire fraud and tax evasion charges for conflating his campaign account and personal account, and allies of Davis (including Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis) are doing their best to topple the scandal-scarred incumbent in the primary.

Winner of that one will face a Republican, likely Pastor Mark Griffin, in the only competitive November election in NE Florida’s state House races.

In HD 14, former Jacksonville City Councilwoman Kim Daniels is relying on the grassroots to battle Leslie Jean-Bart, the granddaughter of Mary Singleton (one of the first African-Americans on the post-Consolidation Jacksonville City Council).

Jean-Bart raised more money than Daniels, but this race will be best remembered for both of these candidates squabbling over who was really endorsed by Corrine Brown.

In House District 16, meanwhile, former state legislator and City Councilman Dick Kravitz faces former School Board member Jason Fischer in a nasty GOP primary. Kravitz has mailers out alleging that Fischer is “pro-Islam,” as the veteran pol has gone decidedly negative in the wake of Fischer attacks on Kravitz’s NRA rating.

How negative? He even called Marion Hammer a “liar” over misrepresenting his rating.

Finally, the big race on the ballot in the Jacksonville area: County Referendum 1, a proposed extension of a ½ cent discretionary sales surtax that, if approved, will provide a secure financing source for Jacksonville’s $2.8 billion unfunded pension liability.

CR1 – a priority of Republican Mayor Lenny Curry – has received about $2.1 million in funds and what Curry calls an “unprecedented coalition” of support. It’s over 50 percent in the latest poll from University of North Florida, and looks headed to passage.

If it does go over? It allows Jacksonville to stretch out the payment plan on the pension debt, and allows for more money in the overstretched general fund.

All of this is pending successful collective bargaining, but for Curry – a first-term mayor – this is a legacy issue. And, as much as any race on the ballot, will be watched closely in Duval … and other cities facing a similarly intractable pension problem around the country. {END]

PROGRAMMING NOTE: I will be speaking Friday at Americans for Prosperity’s Defending the American Dream SummitIf you are in Orlando that and near the convention center and would like to meet up, please email me.

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LATEST FLORIDA VOTER FIGURES – As of Friday afternoon, 1,290,340 Floridians have cast either vote-by-mail (938,839) or early in-person ballots (351,501); 37 percent of the 2,413,794 mail-in ballots provided have been returned: 455,046 Republican (41 percent of 1,063,045 provided), 361,146 Democrat (37 percent of 916,797 provided) and 122,647 NPA/other (27 percent of 433,952 provided). As for early in-person voting, 170,054 Republicans, 155,746 Democrats and 170,054 NPA/others have cast ballots. Total early voting turnout stands at 10 percent of 12,379,292 registered Florida voters (14 percent Republican; 10 percent Democrat; 9 percent NPA/other).

CLICHE-RIDDLED COLUMN OF THE DAY — “Elections no longer a one-day affair” via Bill Smith of the News-Press

STILL THE GREATEST CAMPAIGN STORY EVER TOLD — “Yard sign with candidate’s name on it electrifies congressional race” via The Onion

onion sign

HAPPENING TODAY — MARCO RUBIO MAKES A FINAL PUSH AHEAD OF PRIMARY — Rubio will make a final campaign swing through the Sunshine State ahead of Tuesday’s primary. The Miami Republican will start off the day in Lee County at 9 a.m. at the Cape Coral Military Museum, 4820 Leonard Street in Cape Coral. Media interested in attending should RSVP by 7 a.m. He’ll then head to Bay county for an event at 12:15 p.m. (CT) at Robert’s Hall, 831 Florida Avenue in Lynn Haven. Media is asked to RSVP by 9 a.m. Rubio will then hold at event at 3 p.m. (CT) at Seville Quarter, 150 E. Government Street in Pensacola. Media is asked to RSVP by 10 a.m. He’ll wrap up the day at 8:45 p.m. in Miami at 7032 Coral Way in Miami. Media is asked to RSVP by 3 p.m. All media RSVPs can be sent to press@marcorubio.com.

HAPPENING TODAY — PATRICK MURPHY CAMPAIGNING IN TAMPA, ORLANDO — Murphy is scheduled to visit the West Tampa Sandwich Shop, 3904 N. Armenia Ave in Tampa at 9 a.m. with state Rep. Janet Cruz. He’ll then head to Orlando, where he’ll campaign with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. The two men will meet with voters 1 p.m. at the Orlando Public Library, 101 E. Central Blvd. in Orlando. Media interested in attending either event are asked to RSVP to Press@MurphyForFlorida.com.

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE — PAM KEITH ELECTRIFIES PINELLAS DEMOCRATS OVER ALAN GRAYSON via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Require that the military buy guns only from manufacturers that don’t sell civilians AR-15-style weapons? That sounds interesting. Make gun owners carry insurance? Absolutely. Collect data on judges to ensure they apply the law evenly to all races and genders? Worth a shot. “Equality under the law is not about the way the law is written,” the attorney told roughly 75 people at the monthly meeting of the Pinellas Democratic Party. “It’s about the way the law is applied.” If you hadn’t seen the flurry of social media feeds, you might not know who the attorney was. She’s Pam Keith, and she’s running as a Democrat for U.S. Senate … You may have heard of her opponents … Grayson and Murphy … but she hasn’t gained much traction — which is curious, based on the crowd’s reaction … Keith said in an interview after her speech that she felt the political winds blow against her candidacy. She said her effort to snag the nomination is a “long shot,” and she has had plenty of time to think about why that is. “Our media has to rethink how they handicap candidates,” she said. If the party establishment favors one candidate, “then the media ought not rely on that.” She added “simple research” can separate which underfunded candidates are putting in the hours versus which ones filed just to have their names on the ballot. “You call people asking for money and they say, ‘Well I’ve never heard of you,’ ” she said. “I call the media and say, ‘Hey, write about me,’ and they say, ‘Oh, well, you have no money.’ ” Some people … did know of Pam Keith, and some who didn’t before walking out with her yard signs. The entire room gave her a standing ovation. “It was wonderful,” said Rob Sterling, 68. “I immediately liked her, I mean, as a person.

WILL HE LOSE BY 30 POINTS? OR 40? — CARLOS BERUFF SAYS HE’S IN SENATE RACE TO WIN via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune –After six months campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat and at least $8.2 million spent out of his own pocket in the GOP primary, Beruff has found it difficult to command the attention of Florida voters and break through against a well-known opponent who barely has acknowledged the Manatee County homebuilder’s campaign … Beruff has spent a lot of money and thrown a lot of verbal jabs at Rubio … None of it has done much to elevate Beruff’s profile with average voters, though. Polls indicate he is headed toward an overwhelming defeat and his campaign is going out with more of whimper than a bang, quietly coasting across the finish line with little television advertising in the final weeks after saying early on he was prepared to spend whatever it took to be competitive. Beruff insists he is fighting as hard as he can and still has a shot at winning. Still, he seems resigned to the likelihood that his campaign will end Tuesday. “His high name recognition against my not high name recognition, that’s basically what it boils down to … Name recognition takes time” … the implication being that Beruff simply didn’t have enough time to get his message out after Rubio reversed course and decided to seek re-election in late June. Yet while Rubio is certainly much better known, some have questioned whether Beruff has what it takes to run for such a high-profile job.

— The latest Federal Elections Commission “48 Hour Notice” reports show North Florida Neighbors, the super PAC backing Matt Gaetz in CD 1, purchased an additional $24,336 in air time. Document here.

— “In CD 2, Neal Dunn gives his campaign a money infusion” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

— The latest Federal Elections Commission “48 Hour Notice” reports show Conservative Outsider, the super PAC backing Hans Tanzler/opposing John Rutherford in CD 4, purchased an additional $30,000 in air time. Document here.

GOP FLIER IN CD 6 STIRS MYSTERY via Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-Journal – Dwayne Taylor and President Obama are front-and-center in what’s likely the most costly mailer of the Congressional District 6 Democratic primary. Oddly enough, it’s the Republican Party of Florida who’s paying … households across the district, including all of Volusia and Flagler counties, received a 9-by-12, heavy-stock, color flier showing Taylor — a Democrat who’s served four terms in the Florida House of Representatives — shoulder-to-shoulder with Obama. The card states “there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between liberal Democrats” like Taylor and Obama. State Republican officials wouldn’t comment on the cost of the mail piece or their motives behind it. But Blaise Ingoglia, the state party chair, said it went to not just Democrat households, but also many other voters throughout the 6th District. Mike Scudiero, a political consultant who is not working with any of the Congressional candidates, speculated the Republicans have polled voters in the 6th District and determined Taylor is the most likely winner. Others, including Taylor and his three Democratic opponents, Jay McGovern, Bill McCullough and George Pappas, also have theories as to why Taylor was targeted. And some Democrats, notably Volusia party chair Leslie Pearce, were angered by it. “I dropped it in the trash I was so disgusted,” Pearce said. She believes it will help Taylor in the primary. “We’ve got four guys running,” Pearce said. “We need to let the voters decide.” Taylor, who has served in the Legislature and before that on the Daytona Beach City Commission, said he has expected attacks. “I’m the toughest opponent,” said Taylor, who’s been elected six times in Volusia County, the population center of the newly reconfigured district. “The last thing they want me to do is win.”

HOUSTON BILLIONAIRE BACKING DARREN SOTO IN CD 9 RACE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – A Houston billionaire tied to hedge fund and energy interests has turned to supporting Soto and opposing Dena Grayson and Susannah Randolph … The “Common Sense Leadership for America” political action committee, founded and funded by John Arnold and his wife, Laura Arnold, spent $14,000 this month on phone messaging into CD 9, urging support for Soto and opposition to Grayson and Randolph … According to Forbes Magazine, John Arnold, worth $2.9 billion, is a Democrat but financially supports several causes not embraced by most Democrats, including charter schools and privatization of state and local government pensions. He also reportedly is a big investor in national gas production and fracking, two industries also with limited support among Democrats. Soto’s campaign manager Christine Biron said Soto and the campaign have no relationship with either the PAC or the Arnolds. “We don’t know any of the donors and haven’t spoken with them, ever,” Biron stated.

— The latest Federal Elections Commission “48 Hour Notice” reports show Democrat Bob Poe loaned his CD 10 campaign another $100,000. Document here.

— The latest Federal Elections Commission “48 Hour Notice” reports show Conservative Congress Now!, a super PAC, backing Rebecca Negron, purchased an additional $51,005 in air time. Document here.

— The latest Federal Elections Commission “48 Hour Notice” reports show Republican Francis Rooney loaned his CD 19 campaign another $150,000. Document here.

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FLORIDA POLITICAL PARTIES RAISE MILLIONS AHEAD OF PRIMARY via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – Campaign fundraising reports filed late Friday showed that the Florida Democratic Party raised $4.72 million in cash compared to $4.1 million to the Republican Party of Florida over the last five months. This is the first time in years that the Democrats have raised more money for its state accounts – which are kept separate from federal accounts – than Republicans. Republicans control the Florida Legislature and governor’s mansion and usually raise substantially higher amounts than Democrats. But a split among GOP leaders has fragmented their efforts. Gov. Scott has stopped raising money for the state party and is instead raising money for his own political committee. Republicans who control the state Senate have also set up their own fundraising account separate from the party. The GOP state senate committee reported raising $5.17 million since April. Republican Party of Florida chairman Blaise Ingoglia … took to Twitter to point out the state party and Senate fundraising numbers should be combined because “it all goes to get Republicans elected. That’s what matters.” He also added “we still crush” the Democrats in raising money. Democrats, however, still touted their fundraising totals. Party chairwoman Allison Tant in a statement that the money will help the party with its organization efforts ahead of the November election and help elect Democrats up and down the ballot. “We look forward to building on our momentum and keeping Florida blue for the third presidential election in a row,” Tant said. Both parties received donations from key industries and businesses in the state who depend on the actions of state government and the Florida Legislature.

REPUBLICAN SENATE MAJORITY COMMITTEE RAISES MORE THAN $5 MILLION AHEAD OF PRIMARIES via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — State records show the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee raised nearly $5.2 million between April 1 and Aug. 25. The committee is led by Senate President Designate Joe Negron, and was set up by Senate leaders to raise money for Senate races across the state. Treasure Coast Alliance, Negron’s own political committee, gave $307,000 to the FRSCC. State records show Negron’s committee gave four contributions between May and August. Other top donors include TECO Energy, which gave $200,000; Innovate Florida, the political committee backed by Majority Leader Bill Galvano, which gave $175,000; the Florida Medical Association, which gave $150,00; and U.S. Sugar Corp., which gave $130,000. Records show the committee spent more than $3.2 million … including more than $772,500 to Data Targeting for direct mail, consulting and polling services.

DONATIONS FROM COMMITTEE BACKING ROD SMITH CAME WITHIN WEEKS OF FDP AD BUYS IN SD 8 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Independent Leadership for Florida, the political committee backing Smith’s Senate District 8 bid, gave $393,900 to the state party in the last fundraising period. State records show the committee made seven contributions between May and August. The first donation came around the same time the Florida Democratic Party began running TV ads in Senate District 8 backing Smith. The 30-second spot was a chance for Smith to introduce himself to the voters in the newly drawn district, and were paid for by the Florida Democratic Party. Since, the state party has purchased $358,077 in airtime on cable and broadcast in the Jacksonville, Orlando and Gainesville markets. Those ad buys were made around the same time Smith’s committee gave its contributions. State records show the state party has spent $146,350 on consulting, campaign staff, and research and polling in Senate District 8. That sum includes the cost of benefits and taxes for campaign staffers. Records show the state party spent $24,700 on research and polling Aug. 17. It reported receiving a $13,000 contribution from Independent Leadership for Florida one day earlier, Aug. 16.

RANDOLPH BRACY WITH BIG LATE PUSH IN SD 11 DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Bracy ramped up his campaign spending, dropping $23,000 in the first two weeks of August in the push for a primary win in Florida’s Senate District 11. Bracy, of Oakland, has far more money than his three opponents and spent far more in the weeks heading toward the primary. Yet environmental activist Chuck O’Neal loaned his campaign another $5,000 in early August and was sitting on more money Aug. 12 for a late push. And former state Sen. Gary Siplin had the biggest fundraising push in early August, putting him into position for a big last-week spree as well. In the most recent campaign finance reports available for the race, Bracy had raised $143,000, including $23,000 in the first two weeks of August, leaving him with $71,000 at Aug. 12. O’Neal, who loaned his campaign $67,500, raised almost nothing in early August but had $94,000 cash-on-hand by Aug. 12. Siplin’s big first two weeks of August left him with $39,000 in the bank. And former state Rep. Bob Sindler, also a former Orange County commissioner, raised $5,700 in August and Aug. 25 had $21,000 for any late push.

— “Victor Torres with big late push in SD 15 Democratic primary” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

EXCLUSIVE POLL OF SD 17 GOP PRIMARY SHOWS RITCH WORKMAN CLOSING GAP VERSUS DEBBIE MAYFIELD via Florida Politics – A new St. Pete Polls survey … shows Workman is now in striking distance of Mayfield. Among likely primary voters, Mayfield is at 37 percent, while Workman is at 33 percent. The third candidate in the race, Mike Thomas, receives 22 percent. Bolstering the narrative that Workman could still catch Mayfield is the fact that 59 percent of SD 17 Republicans still plan to vote in the election. The race has become one of the most-watched Senate races in the state, as the two state lawmakers battle it out to replace Sen. Thad Altman in the Florida Senate. The newly drawn district includes all of Indian River County and portions of Brevard County. Outside groups are pouring thousands of dollars into the race, with two opposition groups — “Accomplished Conservative Leaders Fund” and “Stop Career Politicians” — popping up in hopes of exposing the records of Mayfield and Workman.

— “Alan Grayson endorses Darryl Rouson in SD 19” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

VOUCHER ADVOCATES BACK 2 DEMOCRATS IN SENATE DISTRICT 19 PRIMARY via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – The Florida Children’s Federation, the political arm of the Florida movement for private school tuition vouchers, has sent out mailers in favor of two candidates in the state Senate District 19 Democratic primary: Rep. Darryl Rouson and former Rep. Betty Reed. They are running against St. Petersburg lawyer Augie Ribeiro and Rep. Ed Narain of Tampa in a primary that’s likely to determine the final outcome of the race. John Kirtley, a Tampa businessman and school voucher advocate, said via email the group is taking the unusual step of backing two candidates in one primary because “both of them have been strong supporters of parental choice for low-income families,” and Narain and Ribeiro “do not support parental choice.” Kirtley wouldn’t say how much the group is spending on the District 19 race. State records show it has spent more than $132,000 statewide on direct mail over the past two months. Narain and Ribeiro both oppose what they call diverting tax money from public to private schools.

ABOUT $3 MILLION SPENT ON IRV SLOSBERG-JEFF CLEMENS DEMOCRATIC SENATE PRIMARY via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – Slosberg has put nearly $1.9 million of his own money into his Democratic state Senate primary against Clemens … whose campaign and allies have spent about $1 million on the race, according to reports …  Slosberg pumped another $770,000 of his own money into his campaign during the last two weeks, bringing his total personal stake in the race to $1.878 million. The Clemens campaign has spent $295,830. The pro-Clemens committee Each Vote Counts has spent $732,695. The pro-Clemens Committee for a Prosperous Florida has spent another $272,140 — although $81,500 of that was contributed to Each Vote Counts. A small portion of the committee money could also have been spent on other races. The Florida Democratic Party has also spent money to help Clemens, including buying TV advertising, but that figure couldn’t immediately be determined.

NEGATIVE CAMPAIGNING IGNITES STATE SENATE 30 RACE via Bill DiPaolo of the Palm Beach Post – Michael Steinger says Democratic state Rep. Bobby Powell wants to store “secret” chemicals underground, supports a “bait-and-switch budget” and is back-slapping pals with Republican Gov. Scott. Powell says Steinger, his lawyer opponent in the state Senate District 30 Democratic primary, lives in a $10 million waterfront mansion, drives a $121,000 vehicle and is a “rich guy trying to buy elections.” Such are the election slams from speeches, television ads, billboards, mailed flyers and advertisements hooked on voter’s doorknobs in what has become one of the nastiest races in Palm Beach County. “(Steinger’s) allegations are all based on fallacies and exaggerations. His campaign is an act of desperation,” said Powell, 34 … Steinger, 46, a personal injury attorney who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, says helping his clients gives him a unique perspective on the needs of Palm Beach County residents. “Yes, I live in a $10 million waterfront home. I drive a $120,000 Mercedes-Benz. I have been successful. But I was brought up with a single mom, ate school lunches and went to a public school. I’m running to represent voters, not special interests,” Steinger said. The latest salvo came when Powell accused Steinger of taking contributions from West Palm Beach Residents for Integrity in Government in excess of the contribution limits and failing to disclose those contributions. These actions are in violation of state statutes, Powell says. Steinger denied taking contributions from the organization. “I have not taken any money from political action committees or special-interest groups,” he said. Of the $730,000 Steinger has raised for his campaign, about $500,000 has been his own money. Powell has raised about $220,000 total. The two also exchanged attacks this week involving their fathers — both who have been convicted of crimes. The fracas started when Steinger ran a television ad showing a mug shot of Powell’s father. Powell’s father, a felon, was arrested in July on an aggravated assault charge. He was alleged to have hit a woman in the head and fired a gun in a Riviera Beach home the Powells have shared.

MAILER COMPARING MIAMI DEMOCRAT TO DONALD TRUMP HAS QUESTIONABLE FUNDING SOURCE via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald – A mailer comparing Democratic state senate candidate Jason Pizzo to Trump was funded by a group with ties to Pizzo rival Michael Góngora. The group behind the mailer, an electioneering communications organization called One Florida, received a $10,520 contribution from a defunct entity called A Better Miami Beach, state records show. A Better Miami Beach was disbanded June 30, and the entity had until July 8 to file its final report, according to state records. But One Florida received the contribution from A Better Miami Beach Aug. 3. It’s unclear why a supposedly defunct entity was giving to an active political organization. “It goes to show how desperate Michael Góngora is in the final days of the campaign,” Pizzo campaign consultant Christian Ulvert said. Ulvert referred to the contribution from A Better Miami Beach as “questionable” and “likely illegal.” One Florida was established in June, shortly after Góngora announced his plans to run for Florida Senate. Asked about the potential funding source for the mailer … Góngora responded, “I have no idea.”

BROWARD STATE SENATE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY SETS UP A SHOWDOWN OF SPECIAL INTERESTS via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – Funding from rival special interest groups — trial lawyers versus mostly the insurance industry — is powering one of the most expensive state Senate primaries in Florida … Trial lawyers are backing one of their own, Gary Farmer, in District 34, while insurance companies and other business interests are placing their bets on former state Rep. Jim Waldman. The outcome of the Democratic primary in a district that leans left could have an impact on a lucrative issue that will likely be a focus of the 2017 legislative session: Workers’ compensation … Farmer is the former president of the Florida Justice Association, which represents the interests of trial lawyers, and which he calls “the largest consumer protection organization in the State of Florida.” But Waldman criticizes Farmer as being “singularly bankrolled by one special interest group and that is scary.” Farmer regularly slams Waldman as the candidate of choice for traditionally Republican interests. “Republicans found their pawn in Jim Waldman,” he said. The high-stakes Democratic primary illustrates how the demographics in a single state Senate district favoring one party over the other make the primary election the true race and the general election a mere formality.

ANDREW KORGE CLEARED IN ALLEGED BRIBERY SCHEME via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – … After prosecutors determined an offer of $25,000 to Sen. Dwight Bullard was not likely a bribe. Instead, prosecutors said, the evidence showed there was an attempt by “two political consultants to better both Korge and Bullard’s position in their respective elections.” Prosecutors also noted evidence showed Bullard had previously contacted Korge about campaign and fundraising assistance before the offer was made, and interviews with several people involved, including Korge, “indicate the $25,000 was to be fundraised with the assistance of Korge, not provided from Korge’s personal campaign funds.” Korge switched from Senate District 39 to Senate District 40 in June. The last-minute switch set him up for a primary against Bullard, a longtime state lawmaker. Democrat Ana Rivas Logan was also running in Senate District 40, but suspended her campaign in July. In June … Korge offered Bullard $25,000 if he would move to a different district. The website reported Bullard would have none it, and in July prosecutors opened an investigation into the case. But interviews with Korge and political consultants working with the Bullard and Korge campaigns indicate it may have been a misunderstanding after a series of calls.

ONE VOTE COSTS LAWMAKER DEARLY WITH RICK SCOTT, CHAMBER via Steve Bousquet of the Miami Herald – On paper, state Rep. Mike Hill … looks like everything Republicans would want in a legislator. A captain in the Air Force, father of three and a State Farm agent with a grade of 97 out of 100 this year from the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Not perfect, but close. As it turns out, that 97 was far from perfect, and polls suggest that barring a miracle, Hill will lose his Republican state Senate primary Tuesday to Rep. Doug Broxson …  in a race featuring one of the toughest TV ads of this primary cycle. The Florida Chamber of Commerce ran a hard-hitting spot featuring Scott, as a narrator says Hill “broke his word,” that “Rick Scott can’t trust Mike Hill, and we can’t either.” Scott has not formally endorsed Broxson but calls him a “friend.” The Chamber spot, paid for by one of Scott’s staunchest allies, left no doubt about Scott’s preference, and just for good measure, Chamber President Mark Wilson also recorded a 60-second radio spot saying: “Gov. Scott trusts Doug Broxson, and you can, too.” Hill’s problem was that he voted no on HB 1325, a bill that was a priority of Scott and the Chamber in 2016. The bill would have set up a framework for spending $250 million in new tax money to attract jobs to Florida (as it turned out, the Senate never passed HB 1325 and the House rejected the $250 million, making the bill irrelevant to just about everybody except for Scott, the Chamber and Hill). In pushing his red button Feb. 24, Hill had some powerful allies, including Reps. Richard CorcoranMatt HudsonBlaise IngogliaJose OlivaChris SprowlsGreg Steube and Carlos Trujillo … But to compound his problem, Hill had promised to support the bill in a release from Scott’s office — and then didn’t … That infuriated Chamber members, said Marian Johnson, the group’s senior vice president for political strategy — and when Americans for Prosperity began to hammer Broxson with ads calling his yes vote on the bill “corporate welfare,” the Chamber struck back. “It was difficult seeing Doug being attacked for voting for what many of our members believed was their most important issue,” Johnson said.

MIKE HILL’S HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION LAWFUL via Thomas St. Meyer of the Pensacola News-Journal – A week after sending Hill a letter about possible homestead exemption fraud, Escambia County Property Appraiser Chris Jones stated in a press release … that Hill is in compliance with Florida law by filing a homestead exemption on a property in Pensacola, even though he claims a Pensacola Beach house as his residence for political purposes. Jones said someone electronically filed a complaint last week that Hill fraudulently claimed the homestead exemption for a house that he and his wife, Greta, own at 6080 Forest Green Road in the Marcus Pointe area. His Marcus Pointe home is in House District 1, represented by Rep. Clay Ingram. When Hill entered a special election in 2013 to replace the late Rep. Clay Ford, he moved from his Marcus Pointe home to a unit he leases at the Portofino Island Resort on Pensacola Beach, in House District 2 … A homestead exemption is a $50,000 deduction on the value of the primary residence and cuts down on the amount of property taxes one owes.

SPEAKER TO BE RICHARD CORCORAN CONDEMNS ANTI-TERRANCE FREEMAN MAILER via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – Whoever is behind a mailer that appears to darken the skin of state House candidate Terrance Freeman might want to steer clear of Corcoran … Corcoran released a strongly worded statement saying the ad is “disgusting” and that he is not happy with whoever created it. He stopped short of endorsing Freeman, but Corcoran made it clear that he took personal offense. I first wrote about the mailer in a column … I said households in District 12 had received the flyer attacking Freeman this week, and that some consider it an example of “dog-whistle politics” used to subtly appeal to voters with racial biases. Freeman is running in the GOP primary against former City Council President Clay Yarborough, former state Rep. Stan Jordan and former City Councilman Don Redman. The seat includes parts of Arlington and the Southside in Jacksonville. The mailer was paid for by the Conservative Leadership Fund, a political committee with a UPS store as its address and a phone number that goes to voicemail. The fund gets its money from other political committees that in turn received dollars from other entities, including the Republican Party of Florida. Corcoran, who will officially take over as speaker after the November election, found out I was making calls about that RPOF connection and wanted to make it clear the GOP had no role in that mailer and that he was pretty offended by it.

LIBERALS LOVE JASON FISCHER? via Brian Burgess of the Capitolist – In a new ad … the Committee to Protect Florida is loving all over Jason Fischer for his “liberal” stances on things like Common Core, which the ad suggests has led to the adoption of pro-Muslim curriculum in the Jacksonville school system. The ad takes the novel approach of applauding Fischer for his allegedly progressive politics. “The Committee felt it was important to make sure the voters know that Jason Fischer was a ‘no show’ when he missed the School Board vote June 16,2015,” said a spokesman for Committee to Protect Florida. “This allowed the Obama Common Core curriculum called Engage NY, that teaches Islam to Duval County first and second-graders. He failed our kids and community.” Fischer is locked in a dead heat for an open House seat in Jacksonville against Dick Kravitz. The last thing he probably needs on the air right now is a TV ad patting him on the back for ushering in Islamic teachings and suggesting that, “if we want to move our state further left,” then voters should elect Fischer … Fischer’s team fired back. “Not in the history of advertising has a more ridiculous and desperate claim been put on television,” said Brian Hughes, spokesman for pro-Fischer political committee Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville. “Jason Fischer is a 100 percent Pro-Life Christian, endorsed by the NRA, and second to no one when it comes to letting Florida parents be in charge of their children’s education.” Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville is behind a different attack ad blasting Kravitz, for, among other things, seeking office after being forced out by term limits, “pushing liberal special interests” and voting in support of “Charlie Crist’s budget that increased spending, taxes and fees.”

MYSTERIOUS OUTSIDE GROUPS AIM TO BLOCK JOE GRUTERS FROM WINNING SEAT IN LEGISLATURE via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Gruters said he expected to take tough shots from his Republican opponent Steve Vernon in House District 73. It’s the nature of politics, said Gruters, an early backer of Scottin 2010 and Trump’s Florida co-chairman. But what he didn’t expect was that outside special interest groups would fund attack mailers against him given that Vernon, a long time Tea Party activists, has repeatedly tried to argue that Gruters is the one benefiting from special interests. Over the last two days, mailers from a group calling themselves Stop Benefits to Illegals NOW! have poured into Manatee County accusing Gruters of raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from “special interest groups.” Another slams him for living in “liberal Sarasota County” – a longtime Republican stronghold that has not voted for a Democrat for president since Franklin D. Roosevelt. The district the two are battling for includes both Manatee and Sarasota counties, though the bulk of the district is in Manatee … Stop Benefits to Illegals NOW! was created July 25 by Carlie Knight, who lists her address in Cape Coral at an executive office suite rental company that also leases out mailbox addresses … More than half the of the $40,000 that group has raised comes from a political action committee calling itself Leadership for Florida’s Future. That group in turn reports collecting 85 percent of its money in August so far from one group called Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy, which collects donations from dozens of groups. How much Stop Benefits to Illegals NOW! has spent on mail pieces won’t likely be known until after Tuesday’s election when it will have to next report its spending.

AMID RAUCOUS ELECTION, RISING INSURANCE COSTS GET SCANT ATTENTION via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – One issue that could occupy much of their work next year and have a profound impact on Floridians’ pocketbooks isn’t getting much attention: rising insurance costs. The top health, property and automobile insurance companies have filed for rate increases of as much as 30 percent with state regulators that would take effect next year. The hikes, some of which have already been approved, could cost consumers millions. But an improving economy, the incremental nature of the rate hikes and the lack of a major hurricane in 10 years means the issue isn’t at the forefront of the minds of voters and candidates, as it was after the 2004-2005 storm seasons. “People don’t think about [insurance rates] until the impact has already happened,” said Alice Vickers, director of the Florida Consumer Action Network, a consumer advocacy group. The top five auto insurers in the state — State Farm, Geico, Progressive, Allstate and USAA — have filed for rate increases ranging from 4.3 percent and 30 percent since 2015, according to data from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. For the top five property insurers – Universal, Citizens, Security First, Heritage and Federated National – rate requests range from 2.6 percent to 14.9 percent.

TWEET, TWEET: @BrianECorley: To dispel an urban legend-election administrators DO NOT see results until > polls close on Election Day like everyone else! #UrbanLegend

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a Zika preparedness roundtable at 10 a.m. at the Collier County Health Department, 3339 Tamiami Trail East, Suite 145 Building H in Naples. He’ll then host a Zika roundtable at 1:30 p.m. at the Boca Raton Resort & Club in the Mizner Room, 501 E. Camino Real in Boca Raton. Media interested in attending the Palm Beach County event should RSVP to alexis.newman@waldorfastoria.com.

FLORIDA CONSUMER CONFIDENCE TUMBLES TO LOWEST POINT OF THE YEAR via Jeff Harrington of the Tampa Bay Times – The University of Florida’s monthly index found consumer sentiment dropping 4.8 points to 88.2, with all five components that make up the index turning south. “Most of the pessimism in August stems from the perceptions of personal finance situation now compared with a year ago and the expectations of personal finance situation one year from now, as these two components account for more than three-quarters of the change in the index,” said Hector Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. In fact, the measurement for how people felt about their personal finances compared to a year ago was down a significant 10.5 points to 76.2. UF said the downward trend was widespread with the exception of those aged 60 and over, whose readings showed little change. For some perspective, Floridians are still far more optimistic than five years ago when the state was in the early stages of pulling out of the Great Recession and unemployment topped 9 percent. Back in August 2011, consumer sentiment fell as low as 61.4, almost 27 points lower than today’s index reading. A separate national survey by the University of Michigan also found consumers slightly less optimistic in August, though deemed the overall confidence level still “reasonably high.”

LAWSUIT REVIVES AN OLD DEBATE: SHOULD FLORIDA’S STRUGGLING READERS BE FORCED TO REPEAT THIRD GRADE? via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – Michelle Rheaknew her daughter, Berlynn, was at risk to repeat third grade — not because the girl couldn’t read at grade level, but because she planned to skip the state reading test. To avoid holding her back, Rhea asked teachers at Berlynn’s Orange County elementary school to develop a performance portfolio, as allowed in state law. But no one did, and this fall Berlynn found herself reassigned into third grade. “Of course, I’m worried about retention — the stigma, the emotional strain on the child, the waste of valuable instruction time, the fact that the child will forever be so much older than everyone, the social pressure they will face having to tell their friends,” said Rhea, the lead plaintiff in a new lawsuit challenging the Florida law that every year keeps thousands of third-graders from moving to fourth grade. “It’s devastating. Especially when it’s not deserved.” The case, under review by a Leon County judge, has renewed an old debate over a policy that is one of the key features of Florida’s school accountability system. “The extra year does serve as a benefit for those who are struggling in reading,” Florida Deputy Education Commissioner Juan Copa testified in the lawsuit. He cited records from 2011 and 2012 comparing fourth-grade reading test scores of retained students against those of children who got into fourth grade through exemptions in the law. Others say any benefit is far outweighed by the negative impact on kids. “The overwhelming majority of the research concludes that the practice does not help most students and ends up harming many,” said Bob Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest. “Pretty much the only remaining proponents are advocates of ‘faith-based’ policies.” Lorrie Shepard, dean emerita of the School of Education at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said the academic outcomes from retention are “mixed,” and any gains are short-lived. “Unambiguously, retention increases the chances of dropping out of high school,” Shepard added.

OFFICE OF PUBLIC COUNSEL DROPS BOMBSHELL IN FPL RATE CASE LATE FRIDAY, FPL SAYS OPC MISCALCULATED via Susan Salisbury of the Palm Beach Post – The first week of hearings in Florida Power & Light’s request for a $1.3 billion rate hike wrapped up with the filing of a surprise motion by the Office of Public Counsel, which represents ratepayers. The move could drastically change the course of the case as the Office of Public Counsel asserted FPL changed its case, and FPL officials said the OPC had made a $500 million mistake. Public Counsel J.R. Kelly said his office still contends that FPL’s rates should be reduced, not increased, and its staff will be working over the weekend to determine the amount of reduction it will recommend. FPL spokesman Mark Bubriski had this take on the development: “After spending tens of thousands of dollars on outside experts and saying for months that its analysis shows FPL rates should decrease, Public Counsel has suddenly admitted that its case is off by $500 million. A half-a-billion-dollar change of heart is incredible and as far as we know, unprecedented at this point in a rate proceeding. We are disappointed that Public Counsel waited until the end of five days of hearings before suddenly changing their position,” Bubriski said. Kelly responded to the FPL’s comments by saying,” We are not admitting to anything.” At Friday’s hearing, Florida Public Service Commission Chairwoman Julie Brown said she was “perplexed,” when presented with the motion offered by Deputy Public Counsel Charles Rehwinkel over the issue of FPL’s depreciation surplus related to its power generation facilities.

ERIC SILAGY OP-ED: FPL ENDORSES SOLAR AMENDMENTS, URGES OPTIMISM ABOUT CLEAN ENERGY IN FLORIDA via Florida Politics – With pro-solar constitutional amendments on ballots this year, it’s a good time to talk about the state of clean energy in Florida. Contrary to the fear-and-loathing narrative that portrays the Sunshine State as a clean energy laggard, the reality is Florida’s energy landscape is bright. Consider these widely repeated claims: “Florida ranks third in solar potential nationally but far lower in solar energy produced,” and “Florida gets less than 1 percent of its energy from solar.” The first claim is just plain wrong, and the second is, at best, highly misleading. The first begins with a gross misrepresentation of a National Renewable Energy Laboratory study and juxtaposes it with a ranking based on the amount of solar panels installed, not the amount of solar energy produced. This matters because it takes a lot more panels in Massachusetts to generate the same amount of power in Florida. For the real story, let’s look at relevant benchmarks. In terms of overall sunlight strength, NREL ranks Florida ninth. This compares well with Florida’s 10th-place ranking in actual solar energy generated. Suddenly, Florida doesn’t seem so cloudy. The “less than 1 percent” refrain is also deceiving. Solar is growing, but it still accounts for less than 1 percent of energy nationwide. Florida isn’t an outlier. More importantly, the handful of states with more than 1 percent solar get more than 25 percent of their energy on average from coal-fired power plants. For example, North Carolina, among the highest in solar with 1.5 percent, gets more than 30 percent from coal, as does Arizona; New Mexico and Colorado are upward of 60 percent coal. Florida? Just 18 percent in 2015. If we care about clean energy, we have to keep the big picture in mind, and we have to prioritize science over sound bites.

SCAMS, WASTE LOOM AS CHARITY MILLIONS DONATED AFTER ORLANDO SHOOTING via The Associated Press – The more than 430 fundraisers posted on the GoFundMe website after the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando have exposed weaknesses inherent in these popular do-it-yourself charity campaigns: waste, questionable intentions and little oversight. The fundraisers — an average of more than four for each of the 49 killed and 53 wounded — include travelers asking for cash, a practitioner of ancient healing, a personal safety instructor who sells quick loaders for assault rifles, and even convicted identity impostors. The crowdfunding sites operate outside traditional charitable circles and often beyond the reach of government regulation … The officially sanctioned Equality Florida campaign raised more than $7 million via GoFundMe, but another $1.3 million went to smaller appeals — mostly set up by people with little or no charity experience. The Associated Press examined 30 campaigns chosen from throughout the lengthy list produced by a GoFundMe search for “Orlando shootings.” Within a month of the June 12 shootings, they had raised more than $265,000. Half said donations would be used for legitimate-sounding purposes: to cover funeral, medical and other costs. Some campaign organizers were relatives of the dead or wounded … But most campaigns lacked key details, such as exactly what the donations would cover or even who was asking for them … One man wanted money for travel costs to Orlando to shoot independent news video. He hadn’t raised anything two months later. Another organizer raised just $25 for travel money to hold a community healing ceremony inspired by ancient shamanic rituals. She dropped that plan in favor of sending painted rocks with an inspiring word of support.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY from the weekend to the brilliant Alan Levine, as well as the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Andy Gonzalez. Celebrating today is our dear friend, the great Nancy Watkins. Also celebrating today is Travis Pillow.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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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