Sunburn for 8/12 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

Today’s Rise and Shine Fact-iversary is brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the state’s dominant public affairs PR firm: Tee up your anniversary wishes for the Golden Bear! On this day in 1973, Jack Nicklaus became the all-time greatest winner of  major golf tournaments when he captured his third PGA National championship. A North Palm Beach resident since 1965, Nicklaus was voted Florida Athlete of the Century and has a long history of philanthropy in South Florida and nationally, including serving with his wife Barbara as the guiding light behind the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation. And his record of “most majors” is not in any imminent danger of falling.

Now, on to the ‘burn…


The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature on Monday swiftly approved new maps that will alter several of the state’s congressional districts after a judge ruled the current districts were illegally drawn to benefit the GOP.

The changes would alter seven of the state’s 27 congressional districts, but it’s not certain if the revised map will change the makeup of Florida’s congressional delegation. Republicans currently hold a 17-10 edge.

The vote was largely along partisan lines as Democrats complained that the new map still doesn’t reflect that Florida is a battleground state with a divided electorate. The Senate passed the measure 25-12 with the House following by a 71-38 vote.

Legislators held a three-day special session to fix the congressional map after Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled that two districts were drawn illegally. Lewis gave legislators until Aug. 15 to draw a new map.

Republicans who led the effort to draw the new map contended that the changes should pass muster with the judge.


Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford: “The Florida Legislature has approved a new congressional map that addresses Judge Terry Lewis’ stated concerns over Congressional Districts 5 and 10 and also improves the visual and mathematical compactness of every impacted district.

“We thank Chairs Galvano and Corcoran for their hard work this Special Session and are grateful to our colleagues who immediately put their family and professional lives on hold to travel to Tallahassee to be a part of this extraordinary session of the Legislature.

“The Legislature has now fully complied with Judge Lewis’ order. We look forward to a swift resolution of the outstanding issues before the court so Floridians can have certainty in the Congressional elections that are already underway across Florida.

“We maintain that any delays to the 2014 elections calendar will cause confusion and chaos.  We will continue defending the voting rights of our overseas military members, their families, and millions of other voters who have received and cast ballots in this election. We will not support a postponed or special election that would leave Florida without full representation in Congress for any period of time.”

Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant: “Yet again, behind closed doors and without input from the public, Tallahassee Republicans have produced a Congressional map that they promise meets all of the obligations laid out under the Fair Districts Amendments. Floridians have heard all of these claims before. For over two years, the Republican leadership in the Florida Legislature subjected Floridians to an expensive trial and hypocritically claimed that their secret, back-room dealings with political consultants were completely above board. As the judge’s ruling showed, that was complete nonsense, and they were found to have ‘made a mockery’ of the process.

“Clearly the Republicans learned nothing from their public embarrassment. Hiding behind closed doors is how we ended up with this mess in the first place, and their assurances ring just as hollow as ever. This entire farce represents everything Floridians hate about Tallahassee’s broken politics.”

Even with new districts in place, it’s not clear when they will be implemented. Lewis must still decide whether to call a special election for later this year. Legislative leaders have said they plan to oppose any effort to call one.


House Democrats said the new congressional district map pushed through by Republicans appears to be just as unconstitutional as the map struck down by a judge last month.

House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston said Republicans used a “secretive process” to produce their new map. He hopes that Republicans’ failure to include Democrats in drafting the map and their refusal to adequately fix gerrymandered congressional districts will lead Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis to redraw Florida’s congressional districts himself.

“Frankly, it’s a sad day in the Legislature when we have a circuit court judge find there has been a conspiracy to influence the redistricting process,” Thurston said.

“Let’s let the judge decide this. Let’s let the judge consider redrawing the map, and then let’s start a new process where a third party does this without the unconstitutional violations,” Thurston said.

The new congressional districts map now goes back to Judge Lewis to be scrutinized under the Fair Districts amendments. The amendments were passed by voters in 2010 to prevent gerrymandering of legislatively drawn districts.

“We want to fairly implement Fair Districts,” said Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez. “The back-room deals that got us here have shown us how not to do it, and the map the majority drew does not correct that.”

… QUESTIONS REMAIN via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

(Q)uestions remain about whether the map rewrite will prove little more than another step in a still-developing courtroom battle, which already is pitting Florida Democrats and allied voter groups against Republicans, who control the Legislature.

Also uknown is whether the Legislature’s action will force special elections in the seven districts reconfigured by lawmakers, potentially jeopardizing thousands of absentee votes already cast and, beginning Monday, those now coming from early voters across many of the affected counties.

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In the first television ad for the Florida’s 18th Congressional District race, freshman Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy reflects on his 2012 campaign promise to be an “independent problem solver” in Congress.

“Exactly That” is a set to run on network and cable TV in the West Palm Beach-Treasure Coast market starting this week. The 30-second spot is part of an expected $1.4 million ad buy for Murphy’s re-election effort.

“Two years ago, I promised to be an independent fighter for you,” he says in the ad. “Since then, I’ve worked with Democrats and Republicans to author bills cutting $330 billion in wasteful spending and I’m ranked as one of the most-independent Members of Congress.”

Murphy’s campaign manager Anthony Kusich calls the commercial part of an effort to “cultivate enormous grassroots support” throughout the campaign.


Congressional hopeful Carlos Curbelo has picked up the endorsement of former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, the campaign announced.

Curbelo, a member of the Miami-Dade School Board, is running against three other Republicans in the late August primary for the Florida’s 26th congressional district. The winner of the GOP race will face off against Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia.

“I am proud to stand with Carlos Curbelo, a young conservative leader who will work hard to reform our government, balance the budget, and improve the quality of life for the people of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. As an education reformer, Carlos puts students first. In Washington, he will put his community and our country first,” said Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts.

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Crist received nearly $616,000 in public matching funds.

Candidates running for statewide office can qualify for matching money from taxpayers. The Republican-controlled Legislature tried to repeal public financing of campaigns, but voters defeated the amendment in 2010.

The amount of matching money each candidate receives is based on how much money is raised from Florida residents.

Some Republicans have labeled public financing “welfare for politicians.”

Former Gov. Jeb Bush refused public money, as did Gov. Rick Scott in 2010. But other Republicans including Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam are accepting the money.


Crist is now facing an elections complaint over an ill-advised campaign ad filmed at the public high school that is his alma mater.

First came the revelation that the ad shot at St. Petersburg High violated Pinellas school district rules prohibiting the use of their property for political purposes. The school’s administrators had given Crist permission to shoot the ad, but they shouldn’t have. Soon after, the school system’s lawyer asked Crist to stop running the ad.

The Republican Party of Florida announced it has filed an official complaint about Crist’s ad to the Florida Elections Commission. The crux of the argument, according to GOP spokeswoman Susan Hepworth, is that “Crist improperly used school staff and administration resources to produce the ad, and the ad creates the impression that the school endorsed Crist.”

“Unlike Rick Scott, who misled police officers to get them to participate in a campaign event, we requested and received permission from the school to shoot the ad,” Crist spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said via email.


In a pair of competing ads released on Monday, Gov. Scott is “too shady” for the Sunshine State, while Crist’s claims about Scott’s environmental record are complete “fiction.”

“In every job he’s ever had,” says the narrator of “Shady,” the ad produced by the Florida Democratic Party, “Rick Scott has ducked the truth.”

Also featured in the ad is a clip of Scott hesitating to confirm his own signature.

“Rick Scott slashed education, raised property taxes, and gave massive tax breaks to corporations,” the ad concludes. “No wonder he doesn’t want to answer.”

In “Fiction,” the Florida GOP-produced pro-Scott spot, Crist’s recent accusations that the incumbent received $200,000 in donations from oil company “polluters” is blasted as completely untrue.

“He didn’t take a nickel,” that 30-second ad says. “Scott held a polluter accountable, shut down their wells and now (there is) historic protection for the Everglades.”

The ad also points out that as governor, Crist had “failed to keep his commitment to the Everglades,” and he is now campaigning on a “private owned by … you guessed it … polluters.”

BOUSQUET COLUMN: AS SCOTT GOES ‘GREEN,’ SKEPTICS SEE RED via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott wants voters to see him in a different light, as in green, for being a true friend of the environment.

Scott spent the past week stressing the theme on a “Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful” tour by promising $1 billion for water protection, tougher penalties on polluters, renewed promises to protect the Keys, the Everglades and Apalachicola Bay, and a new staffer in the governor’s office to shape policies on water.

Adding credibility to Scott’s tour was the man at his side: Eric Draper, a leading voice on the environment as Audubon’s Tallahassee lobbyist.

As Draper noted in an interview, he was on hand partly because Scott agreed to spend $20 million to acquire land to protect water quality in the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed or CREW, an Audubon goal for years.

The money for the CREW project would come from Florida Forever — a program Scott killed funding for in his first two years in office and provided only token support for the past two years.

On that issue and others, Draper has been critical of Scott, including his $700 million tax cut to water management districts his first year in office and a shake-up in the state Department of Environmental Protection that critics said showed a pro-developer tilt.

Scott has won praise from Everglades advocates for supporting restoration efforts there. But he won’t take a position on climate change, though he will meet with a group of climate scientists next week in Tallahassee.


Struggling for support compared to Charlie Crist, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich received state matching funds of $189,151, according to the most-recent campaign finance reports. Matching funds made up nearly all of the $198,835 in contributions received by Rich between July 26 and Aug. 1.

Rich now has brought in $626,672 total as of Aug. 1, and spent $341,726.

“Citizens for a Progressive Florida,” the committee supporting Rich’s campaign, has raised $140,315 as of Aug. 1.

SAVE THE DATE: BOBBY JINDAL TO KEYNOTE STATE GOP DINNER via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will be making a trip to Florida in September to keynote the Republican Party of Florida’s annual Victory Dinner.

Jindal, who has served as governor of the Louisiana since 2008, said he was excited to headline the Sept. 13 event, which will be held at Disney’s Grand Floridian in Lake Buena Vista.

“I look forward to standing with my fellow conservative leaders in Florida to share the progress we have made in Louisiana, and highlight the transformation of Florida’s economy under the leadership of Gov. Scott and the Florida Legislature,” he said.

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Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto and Sen. Oscar Braynon, each facing challenges in the Aug. 26 primaries, have extended their fundraising leads even further between July 26 and Aug. 1.

Benacquisto added $21,350 during the weeklong reporting period, bringing her total to $646,459, according to the Division of Elections website. She also spent $573,658 as of Aug. 1.

Benacquisto faces Bokeelia Republican Michael Dreikorn in the GOP primary for Senate District 30. Dreikorn has raised a total of $10,282.

Braynon raised $24,025 from July 26 to Aug. 1 for total of $201,436 while spending $130,690.

Braynon’s challenger is North Miami Democrat Anis “Auguste” Blemur, who raised $16,696 as of Aug. 1 — and loaning the campaign $55,810  – financial reports show.


Business executive Jay Trumbull added another $5,225 in the reporting period of July 26-Aug. 1 for the congested Aug. 26 GOP primary in House District 6.

The Panama City Republican now brings his total to $188,945, and with a media spend of more than $34,400 for the week, has nearly $73,000 cash-on-hand.

Trumbull’s fundraising performance continues to outpace the other candidates in the race to replace term-limited Rep. Jimmy Patronis in the district covering southern Bay County, Panama City, Panama City Beach and Tyndall Air Force Base.

Among Trumbull’s GOP opponents — Tho Bishop, Melissa Hagan and Thelma Rohan – Bishop came in second for the weeklong reporting period with $1,725 in donations for a total of $12,725, leaving the candidate $2,550 on hand.

Former educator Rohan received $1,089 – and another $10,000 in loans — for just over $35,200 and $42,508 in her war chest. Hagan raised $1,505 for $64,046 total and $44,815 on hand.


In an email to supporters, Democratic hopeful Ed Narain laments the end of the “clean race” for state House District 61 once promised by his opponent, Tampa attorney Sean Shaw.

“Paid operatives have stolen signs, intimidated my supporters, and leveled false accusations against me,” Narain says, capping the list off with a campaign mailer sent by Shaw, which raises doubts about Narain’s “Democratic values.”

Shaw’s mailer highlights support Narain received from “Republican lobbyists,” going as far as calling Narain a “Rick Scott Republican” and that a vote for him will just be “more of the same.”

That goes too far, says Narain, who refuses to be “swift boated” in the HD 61 campaign.

“Too much is at stake for me to stand idly by while your hard work and support are dishonored,” the mailer goes. “So, I’m going to start telling the truth.”

A fine sentiment, to be sure.

However, saying to supporters you will “start telling the truth,” implies you may not have been doing so before. Just saying.

Regardless of which side voters stand here, there is one thing the heated rhetoric of the past few days proves: the District 61 race has reached a turning point. And this battle of words will only get hotter.


Chris Latvala is up with his first spot in HD 67 race. Watch it here.

WATCHDOGS WANT DATA ON CAMPAIGN SPENDING via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune

Contributions and who gives them get all the scrutiny but less attention is paid to expenditures: What the campaigns do with all the money they take in.

In Florida, candidates and committees are required to list only the most basic information about their expenses despite the tightening of campaign finance laws in recent years.

To be sure, most spending is self-explanatory, such as postage, printing, office supplies and campaign ads.

But others aren’t quite as obvious at first glance.

The public should get as much disclosure for expenditures as for contributions, argues Pete Quist, research director for the nonprofit, nonpartisan National Institute on Money in State Politics.

An upcoming project by the institute involves seeing how much those on the receiving end of campaign money try to influence laws and policy, just as some contributors do.

Information about “campaign expenditures are often more gray than the contributions we see,” Quist said. “Expenditures are reported just as bare descriptions without any standardized requirement for specific details.”

So campaigns often will list a description that simply says, “consulting,” a common expense.

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On Context Florida: If Gov. Scott gets to deliver a fifth “State of the State Address,” Stephen Goldstein says it should be titled “Fooled You Twice, Shame on You.” For about two years, the Florida Board of Medicine (BOM) has been evaluating a rule change that would simplify the fees charged by physicians for the reproduction of medical records. Chris Nuland notes that the issue attorneys have with the BOM proposal is that it eliminates a “confusing tiered pricing mechanism,” and allows all requestors, including attorneys, to be billed $1 per page – the same amount that hospitals may charge for medical records. The causes of our health care system’s meltdown are many and they are complex, writes Marc Yacht. Those who complain that specialists work too many hours touched on one of the serious flaws in health care today: Medical care is unfair to both patients and doctors. After participating in a forum on terrorism, former Sun-Sentinelopinion columnist Rachel Patron offers 12 Arabic words and idioms everyone should understand, including the Five Pillars of Islam, Jihad (or The Sixth Pillar) Inshallah and Hamdulallah.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Be careful if you are a pedestrian in Bay County or Miami-Dade County, Florida. These two regions are both in the nation’s top ten most dangerous places to cross a street, according to data published in Governing magazine. A coastline Census tract (#2701) in Panama City registers the third most per capita pedestrian deaths over a five-year period. Most of these deaths occurred along a divided highway and the others, near the beach. This region has had 20.9 deaths per 10,000 people between 2008 and 2012. A tract of Miami-Dade (#5102) rings in at No. 10, with 14.1 deaths per 10,000 people over this same five year period. But that’s not all. Recent Governing reports also found that of metro areas with at least a million residents, four of the top five with the highest total per capita death rates were in Florida. Tampa-St.Pete-Clearwater rings in the highest rate in the nation, where 403 pedestrians died over this five year period.

Visit here for a complete report and interactive maps.

EMAIL THIS NOLE DID NOT OPEN: “Gone Pro Florida – A New Book to Pay Tribute to Gator Athletes Who Became Pros”


How do Florida cities compare with others in terms of their perceived “friendliness”? According to the readers of Conde Nast Traveler, the answer is a mixed bag. Overall, Southern cities were rated by the 80,000 voters in the Readers’ Choice Survey as more friendly than those in the north — indeed, the top five cities are all below the Mason Dixon Line. In this survey, friendliness in large part means  how welcome a city makes visitors feel. The first and only Florida city to appear in the top 10 is Key West, at No. 10. Readers described this southernmost town as a place where it is “impossible to be stressed out” — and as pleasant, walkable, and a great place to recreate and feast. But drive just north back to Florida’s mainland, and there’s Miami — rated in this same survey as the 10th least friendly city in the US. Miami was derided for being “too touristy”, “too trendy” and “overpriced” — but nonetheless a great place to find culture, shopping, nightlife and dining.


After years of grim news for the news industry marked by seemingly endless rounds of staff cutbacks, it’s not unusual for those thinking about a career in journalism or veterans trying to find a new job to look at options in related fields. One field outpacing journalism both in sheer numbers and in salary growth is public relations.

The salary gap between public relations specialists and news reporters has widened over the past decade – to almost $20,000 a year, according to 2013 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data analyzed by the Pew Research Center. At the same time, the public relations field has expanded to a degree that these specialists now outnumber reporters by nearly 5 to 1 (BLS data include part-time and full-time employees, but not self-employed.)

In 2013, according to BLS data, public relations specialists earned a median annual income of $54,940 compared with $35,600 for reporters. In other words, journalists on average earn just 65 percent of what those in public relations earn. That is a greater income gap than in 2004 when journalists were paid 71 cents of every dollar earned by those in public relations ($43,830 versus $31,320).

Most of that widening has come from salary growth in the public relations industry during a time when salary increases in the journalism field did not even keep up with inflation.

As the salary gap has grown, so too has the gap between the number of employees working in each field. There were 4.6 public relations specialists for every reporter in 2013, according to the BLS data. That is down slightly from the 5.3 to 1 ratio in 2009 but is considerably higher than the 3.2 to 1 margin that existed a decade ago, in 2004.

Over this 10-year stretch, the number of reporters decreased from 52,550 to 43,630, a 17 percent loss, according to the BLS data. In contrast, the number of public relations specialists during this timeframe grew by 22 percent, from 166,210 to 202,530.


A Florida State social media campaign turned ugly when the university’s athletic department asked the public to pose questions to Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston.

The “#AskJameis” turned into an all-day mockery of the sophomore.

The department wanted to solicit questions for a video to be posted on the team website. Sports information director Elliott Finebloom says they expected some negativity, but didn’t anticipate the scope of it.

Winston has been heavily criticized for several off-the-field incidents during his time at Florida State.

Social media experts say universities and businesses need to be careful when it comes to this type of marketing – especially when it involves a controversial subject. Robert Stewart, director of the Ohio University school of journalism, says “#AskJameis” was doomed from the beginning.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Matt Caldwell and Jen Greenfield.

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.