Sunburn for 8/13 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics, powered by Sachs Media Group.


A new McClatchy-Marist poll finds President Obama “is dragging down his party and hurting the prospects of fellow Democrats as they head into midterm elections that will determine who controlsa Congress.”

Just 40% of voters approve of the way he’s doing his job, tying his worst mark in three years and the second worst of his presidency. Just 39% approve of the way he’s dealing with the economy and only 33% approve of how he’s dealing with foreign policy, the worst of his years in office.”

By 42% to 32%, voters say their opinions of Obama make them more likely to vote this fall for a Republican than for a Democrat. And for the first time this election cycle, more people said they’d vote for a Republican than a Democrat for Congress, by 43% to 38%.

GOOD READ — IN WASHINGTON, THE ‘ME WALL’ STILL TRUMPS THE SELFIE via Elizabeth Williamson of the Wall Street Journal

In a wood-paneled office in the tony Willard Hotel complex near the White House, lobbyist Rick Hohlt works surrounded by himself.

This is Mr. Hohlt’s “me wall,” as some call it, built over four decades of government work and tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. The collection contains not a single selfie.

On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Cory Booker, the junior senator from New Jersey, is making friends with his self-titled “99-part Instagram series: Selfies with My Fellow Senators.” Mr. Booker, who at 45 is one of the Senate’s younger members, uses his cellphone to break the ice during meetings with his new colleagues.

Each Instagram selfie bears a caption and hashtag, such as this one with an amused-looking Wyoming Republican Sen. Mike Enzi, 70 years old: “Senator Enzi has a strong reputation for working on bipartisan deals. He is one of the deans of our weekly prayer breakfast and a senior senator I’ve come to admire and appreciate as a colleague and friend. #BreakfastBrother”.

Mr. Hohlt, 66, a Republican lobbyist, is unimpressed. “To the naive, a selfie might be really impressive,” he says. “But there’s a certain lack of respect involved.” His favorite picture: “Me, in the presidential box at the Kennedy Center with Reagan,” signed by the president and including his daughter, Patti Davis, entertainer Bob Hope, and seated in a wheelchair in the foreground, five-star Gen. Omar Bradley. All except Ms. Davis are dead.

Selfies have assumed a place in politics. But the measure of true Washington insiders can still be gauged by the stately photos displayed on their office walls.

These galleries are the coin of Washington’s hierarchical realm, collected by the connected “to visually convey that you’re a player in town,” says a player in town, who declined to put his name on the record because “that sounds pompous.” As administrations come and go, the photos bear silent witness to the evolution of the owner’s career, waistline and hairline.

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The National Republican Congressional Committee is going on the air, targeting Democrat Gwen Graham, who’s challenging Rep. Steve Southerland.. The ad hits Graham on Obamacare (“Graham never admits she’s for it,” a woman says) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (“Graham won’t talk about her vote for Speaker,” another says). The ad is backed by $50,000 buys in the Panama City area for each of the next two weeks. Watch the ad here.

EMAIL I DIDN’T OPEN – “Out of his melon” via U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia

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GOVERNOR’S RACE WILL ALSO SHAPE FLORIDA SUPREME COURT via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press

If former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist is elected governor as a Democrat in November, all seven state Supreme Court justices might be his appointments.

If Republican Gov. Rick Scott is re-elected, he could completely reshape the court that has frustrated him and other GOP leaders on issues ranging from medical marijuana to efforts to protect doctors and businesses from lawsuits.

Whichever candidate Floridians elect, they also will decide the direction of the Supreme Court for decades to come. Florida’s mandatory retirement age of 70 for Supreme Court justices means four will leave the court by January 2019, and each has often rejected laws created by the Republican-controlled Legislature and executive orders issued by Scott. Any appointees could stay on the court until they turn 70, which could be 20 years or more.

A number of Scott’s actions have been found unconstitutional in state and federal courts, including attempts to drug-test welfare recipients and state employees; his order to state agencies not to implement rules for regulations established by the Legislature; a prison privatization plan; and an effort to protect developers from lawsuits.

The state’s high court has also struck down other Republican priorities implemented before Scott took office, including a school voucher program and lawsuit caps on medical malpractice cases in which the patient dies.

Crist had his own problems with the Supreme Court when he was governor. The court ruled he overstepped his powers by negotiating a gambling compact with the Seminole Indians without getting legislative approval. Crist was also ordered to name a judge to an appeals court after he rejected recommendations from a judicial nominating commission because all potential appointees were white and Crist wanted a more diverse list.

Crist has made the Supreme Court part of his talking points as he campaigns. Scott has not.


The Crist campaign has decided not to allow Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith on a three-day bus tour.

The tour will start in Tallahassee before heading to Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and Miami. A news release says it will “highlight Rick Scott’s $1.3 billion cut to education.” That’s the level cut in Scott’s first budget, but much of it has since been restored.

Brendan Gilfillan, a Crist spokesperson, would not discuss why they decided to not allow Smith to ride the bus.

Gilfillan did not return a follow-up question about whether any reporters from the Times would be allowed on the tour.

Smith, along with Times’ writer Michael Kruse, last weekend published a long-anticipated profile of Crist. The story relied on interviews from more than 100 people and chronicled Crist’s life and career going back to his days in junior high.

Democrats have hammered Gov. Scott for dodging the media’s questions, a press strategy that was given wide circulation recently by several television reporters across the state.

MY TAKE Full blog post here

As I have said on Twitter, if someone wrote that crap about my wife, they wouldn’t be allowed on my bus, either.

Keep in mind, this is not a ban of the Tampa Bay Times, just Adam Smith. The newspaper is free to send Steve Bousquet or Michael Van Sickler or anyone else, just not the guy who has done nothing but attack Crist on tangential issues. And when Smith writes his snarky posts — how many more times will he ‘welcome Crist to the NFL’ — he hasn’t bothered to ask the Crist press shop for a response.

I’ve been saying this for a while, so forgive me if I am repeating myself, but Smith is in a bad place. It dates back to his coverage of the special election for Congressional District 13, but also includes illogical and/or out-of-bounds attacks on former Mayor Rick Baker and Sen. Jack Latvala. Smith’s coverage hit bottom with his “David Jolly Killed A Man” blog post and subsequent online attack of a fellow reporter, but it has not improved during this gubernatorial campaign.

Crist’s critics and opponents will seize on this incident to accuse him of double-dealing and hypocrisy, but that’s not what it is. It’s just a case of the frog deciding he’s had enough of the scorpion and, this time, he’s not going to give him a ride across the flooded river.

FLASHBACK via The Miami Herald: “Rick Scott’s campaign bus stopped Thursday somewhere between Ocala and Newberry so that the campaign could drop off two political reporters after a round of pointed questions from the Herald/Times. The campaign says the stop was planned. The reporters didn’t expect it.”



Lee is running a committee behind a new round of robo-calls aimed at using Crist’s policy changes against him.

The Brandon Republican says he finds it “despicable” that former Republican governor flipped on a host of policy positions as he runs for his old job as a Democrat.

“It is a personal offense to me that this is someone so narcissistic and arrogant that he can undergo an entire transformation on every policy position he has championed for years,” Lee said.

The round of robo-calls is coming from a political committee called “The Conservatives.” The ads are aimed at registered Democrats leading up to the Aug. 26 Democratic primary.

The first round is a recording Crist used while running in the 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary against Tom Gallagher. In the recording, Crist says he’s pro-life, opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants and supports traditional marriage.

Lee would not say how much the recent round of robo-calls cost, or how much the group plans on spending this election cycle.

The force behind The Conservatives, a political committee, had been the subject of some intrigue. Its listed chair is Stafford Jones, an Alachua County Republican that is the listed chair for more than 20 political committees. Because Stafford is a go-to for these often procedural posts, his name did not offer a huge clue.

JEB TO CAMPAIGN WITH RICK SCOTT FRIDAY via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

In South Florida, Jeb Bush will make his first campaign appearance this year with Rick Scott. Only a few months ago, Charlie Crist called Bush a “great” governor.

Scott campaign spokesperson Jackie Schutz says Govs. Bush and Scott will visit “a business in Homestead to highlight proposals to keep Florida working.”

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The farther north you go, the farther south you are. So goes the axiom describing the anomaly that is Florida, a political swing state that seems to become increasingly “Southern” the closer it gets to its northern neighbors Georgia and Alabama.

But shifting demographic patterns are making that less true with each passing year. Now a Pew Research Center report released today shows that a new wave of Puerto Ricans leaving their island’s severe economic woes has been finding its way to Central Florida and rapidly changing the ethnic and political makeup of the country’s largest swing state. Florida, which has played a crucial role in the past two presidential elections, has 29 electoral votes that could play a crucial role in the 2016 presidential race.

Puerto Ricans, however, don’t vote as a single bloc, so just how this demographic shift will influence the upcoming elections is anyone’s guess.

An estimated 31 percent of all 334,000 Puerto Ricans who moved to the U.S. mainland between 2005 and 2012 landed in the Sunshine State, according to the Pew report. That makes Florida the top U.S. destination for Puerto Rican migrants, compared to 10 percent who moved to New York during that same time.

Surrounding counties have seen similar demographic shifts, most notably Osceola County, whose Puerto Rican residents now comprise 27.2 percent of the population, according to data from the U.S. Census.

This region in Central Florida, known as the I-4 corridor for the highway that runs between Tampa and Orlando, has been dubbed “the highway to political heaven” in Florida’s political circles. “If you win it, you win the state,” Susan McManus, political science professor at the University of Central Florida in Tampa, told Fusion. “If you lose it, you lose.”

VOTERS’ GROUP URGE JUDGE TO DO OWN MAP-MAKING via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

The Republican-led Legislature’s latest attempt to draw congressional district boundaries is set to go to a judge this week, but a voters’ coalition said Tuesday that it only continues to take an approach already ruled unconstitutional by the court.

Deirdre Macnab, president of the Florida League of Women Voters, said Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis should now consider taking on the map-making himself and have it ready for this fall’s elections.

“The Legislature has a duty to abide by the Constitution, which they swore to uphold and enforce,” Macnab said. “We believe they have once again fallen fall short of their sworn duty, and we will continue to urge Judge Lewis to adopt a constitutionally compliant map for the 2014 elections.”

Macnab’s organization joined with Common Cause of Florida and several Democratic voters to challenge the congressional map approved by state lawmakers and used during the 2012 elections.

Lewis singled out two districts in that plan that he said were drawn to help the Republican Party maintain its control of the 27-member congressional delegation. And he also ruled the entire plan invalid.

In approving a new map Monday, lawmakers made changes to seven congressional districts. But leaders said the revised plan — to be submitted by Friday to Lewis — will only take effect after the Nov. 4 elections and that the discredited map should be used this fall.

The voters’ groups are urging Lewis not to sign off on that proposal.

“Our elected leaders were given a second chance to get it right, and responded with a dog and pony show,” Macnab said.  “The remedial map looks suspiciously like the map that was held unconstitutional and the fact that it was drawn behind closed doors only adds to the suspicion.”

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In 2012, military spending in the three-county Tampa region accounted for nearly $14 billion in economic output, 141,000 jobs and represented about 7 percent of the economies of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk counties, according to the Florida Chamber Foundation.

Statewide, defense spending brought in about $70 billion, or about 10 percent of the gross domestic product that year, according to the foundation’s recently released Industry Analysis: Military & Defense report. That translated into more than 750,000 jobs statewide, according to the report, which also shows that there are about 85,000 military and civilian personnel living in Florida.

But with downward pressure on Pentagon spending, the possibility of future rounds of automatic defense cuts and the looming end of combat operations in Afghanistan, the Florida Chamber is holding a meeting in Orlando to help figure out a way forward.

The trendlines for the defense sector are not encouraging.

Defense spending in the state dropped by about $3 billion over three years, the Florida Defense Contractors Association told The Tribune in June. That represents about a 20 percent cut since 2010, when more than $14 billion in military contracts were awarded.

Last year, that translated into about 1,500 job losses statewide, according to association president Joe Marino.

And that is just from companies of 100 or more, said Marino.


Florida’s leading government watchdog group announces a renewed effort for municipal pension reform with Taxpayers for Sustainable Pensions a collaboration with business advocates and policy groups.

Non-profit Florida TaxWatch joined six other advocacy groups in Tallahassee to announce a combined effort to reform taxpayer-funded government pensions. The coalition’s goal is ensuring the state’s retirement program has sufficient funding for long-term sustainability.

The failure to pass a municipal pension reform bill in the 2014 legislative session inspired the group to form a coalition to focus attention on the massive local liabilities. With more than $10 billion in debt due to excessive benefits levels, Weissert points out that one-third of all Florida’s municipal pension plans are less than 70 percent funded.

GULF OYSTER HARVEST HAS NOSE-DIVED SINCE BP SPILL via Stacey Plaisance of the Associated Press

Gulf Coast oyster harvests have declined dramatically in the four years since a BP PLC oil well blew wild in the nation’s worst offshore oil disaster. Even after a modest rebound last year, thousands of acres of oyster beds where oil from the well washed ashore are producing less than a third of their pre-spill harvest.

Most worrisome is the dearth of oyster larvae — future generations of oysters — once found in abundance on shells in the lake, east of the muddy bends of the Mississippi River.

Whether the spill contributed to the decline is part of an ongoing study; hurricanes, overfishing and influxes of oyster-killing fresh water had already put pressure on the industry.

The millions of gallons of oil that spewed into the Gulf caused fishing grounds to be closed for fear the oil and the chemical dispersant used to break it up would make seafood inedible, either by direct ingestion of the substances by marine life or by tainting the food chain. More visible were the oil-covered dolphins, birds and other sea life that either died in the oil or required rescue and scrubbing to clean away the oil.

A BP “white paper” states that Louisiana biologists did not find any oil on the oyster beds they checked in 2010, 2011 or 2012. The paper also said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s checks on oysters after the spill either found no hydrocarbons or levels far too low to cause health problems.

Louisiana’s 2010 assessment of oyster stocks, cited as a source, noted that oil wasn’t found on beds that were always submerged, even in areas where oil hit nearby shorelines.

Regardless of the cause, the harvest is way down, and prices are way up as a result.


Judge Wilfredo Martinez recused himself from the case of a former state lawmaker after WFTV/9 Investigates uncovered a connection between the two.

Former state representative-turned-lobbyist Chris Dorworth pleaded not guilty to violating Florida’s open meeting law after accusations of discussing a takeover of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority.

Martinez was to hear motions in the case on Friday, but instead took himself off the case after Channel 9 discovered Dorworth helped get Martinez appointed to the Ninth Circuit Court in November 2010.

WTFV Reporter Shannon Butler learned several in the Orange County legal community asked Dorworth to vouch for Martinez after his nomination for the Circuit Court to replace retiring Judge Cynthia MacKinnon.

Richard Hornsby, Dorwoth’s attorney, said he discussed Butler’s information with his client, who verified it was true. All Dorworth did was contact the chief of staff of then-Gov. Charlie Crist’s to express his support, Hornsby added.

“It should be noted that Mr. Dorworth does not know Judge Martinez personally and expressed his support for Judge Martinez based on the recommendation of the members of the legal community who approached him,” Hornsby said.

TECH’S FIERCEST RIVALRY: UBER VS. LYFT via Douglas MacMillan of the Wall Street Journal

Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. operate just blocks from each other in San Francisco, yet their bitter war has spilled into dozens of cities where they are racing to provide the default app for summoning a ride within minutes.

The two rivals are undercutting each other’s prices, poaching drivers and co-opting innovations, increasingly blurring the lines between the two services.

But this is more than two tech darlings duking it out. It’s a battle for a key role in the future of urban transportation. Many commuters now rely on Uber and Lyft to get around rather than taking cabs, buses or trains and, in some cases, their own cars.

The loudest opposition to the ride-sharing apps comes from regulators, taxi drivers and local taxi commissions, which have moved to ban the companies from operating, offering proof that a multibillion-dollar transportation industry has entered a phase of rapid transformation.

Meanwhile, the potential market for these companies may stretch beyond rides. Investors who bid up the value of Uber to $18.2 billion in June are betting it can expand into being the backbone of a logistics and delivery network for various services—a kind of FedEx for cities.

For now, the battle is lopsided. Uber, led by sharp-tongued technologist Travis Kalanick, operates in nearly three times as many markets as Lyft, whose co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer have crafted a friendlier image by attaching fuzzy pink mustaches to cars and encouraging passengers to greet each other with fist bumps. Uber also has four times as many employees and five times the amount of funding from investors.

But a market-share lead doesn’t assure success. By dreaming up new ways to move passengers from point A to point B, Lyft and other ride-sharing startups have created new arenas of competition.

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Move over HD 74, the GOP primary for HD 15 is quickly becoming the most contentious legislative race in the state.

In a press release, HD 15 hopeful is accusing opponent Jay Fant of misleading voters by falsely claiming endorsements he does not have. In a video released by the Florida Times-Union, Fant falsely stated that he has received endorsements from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the National Right to Life. The video interview was posted on Friday on the Times-Union website as part of an editorial page blog.

In the video, at approximately :09 – :10, Fant states that he has been “endorsed by the NRA and the Florida Right to Life” in the race for House District 15. This statement is categorically false and is in violation of state campaign laws says Renner’s camp.

Fant, like Paul Renner, received an ‘A’ rating from these organizations, but did NOT receive their official endorsement.

“Neither the NRA or Unified Sportsman of Florida has endorsed anyone in the race for House District 15,” said Marion Hammer, past president of the NRA and executive director of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida.

“Unfortunately, you cannot un-ring the bell in today’s world of online media, and there is no telling how many people Mr. Fant has actually made these false claims to throughout the district,” said Sarah Bascom, spokesperson for Renner’s campaign.


One of the most closely watched state races, House District 31, went negative today with an attack ad on cable television, knocking two frontrunners — Terri Seefeldt and Jennifer Sullivan — while praising the third, Randy Glisson.

The ad starts with comparisons of the three candidates:

“Terri Seefeldt. Just too liberal. Seefeldt supports Obamacare. Jennifer Sullivan. Just too young. Only 22 and still living at home. Jennifer Sullivan just doesn’t have any real world understanding of the problems facing families. Conservative Republican Randy Glisson. Just right. Endorsed by Sheriff Gary Borders. Randy is a successful businessman, and doctor. Conservative Republican Randy Glisson.”

Seefeldt, a committee member of the Orange County Republican Executive Committee, faces youth development leader Sullivan and health clinic executive Glisson in the bid to replace term-limited Rep. Bryan Nelson. HD 31 covers Lake and Orange Counties and the towns of Eustis, Tavares, Umatilla, Mt. Dora and Apopka.

The 30-second spot was produced by a group called Families for Lower Taxes, with no online presence and just a P.O. Box in Melbourne.

Frank Torres of notes that this is the first negative turn in District 31. The all-Republican field also features Teacher Union Rep. B. Grassel and fraud investigator Joseph Stephens.

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Florida’s five water management districts, special-purpose governments that collectively will spend $1.1 billion next year, have publicly registered 250 special-interest lobbyists since new registration requirements took effect July 1.

Until now, lobbyists seeking to influence spending and policy decisions at the water management districts operated in the shadows. The public had no way to obtain official information about them or their clients, or even know how many lobbyists were at work behind the scenes.

The new law requires lobbyists to register annually and disclose whom they’re working for. It is the first time state lobbyist regulations have been applied to any of the state’s nearly 1,000 independent special districts.

House ethics and elections chair Rep. Kathleen Passidomo has said that if the water district registration process goes well, the law may be expanded further to include other independent taxing districts such as the North Broward Hospital District, which levied nearly $150 million in property taxes in 2012.

The West Palm Beach-based South Florida Water Management District, which oversees water resources in the Everglades, is the state’s largest with a projected budget next year of $724 million. It collects taxes in 16 counties, including Broward and Miami-Dade, and is a frequent focus of lobbyists who engage staff and an unelected governing board dominated by real estate, agribusiness and development interests.

The SFWMD reported registering 104 lobbyists representing a variety of local governments, environmental and public interest groups like Audubon Florida, and large for-profit corporations.


Marsha Bowen: Baptist Health South Florida

Ilene Michelson: Bernie Maribona

Sharon Rogers: Florida Gulf Coast University

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On Context Florida: It’s political season, and candidates are telling us about their valuable education and experience in the military, business and government, all reasons we should make them our leaders. But Mark O’Brien wants someone who was part of a homeowner’s association, someone who has been in the trenches, doing battle in a condo association where people with competing values duke it out on a regular basis. The race for House District 100 offers Democrats an opportunity, says Daniel Tilson. John Paul Alvarez, the Democrat running for state representative in HD 100, faces three opponents. Two are candidates. The third is the Florida political system itself. Stephen Goldstein sat down recently for a Q&A session with George Sheldon, who is campaigning for the Democratic nomination for Florida Attorney General. As each new school year begins, Catherine Durkin Robinson notes that frazzled parents are doing more than searching for specific pencils and the right kinds of notebooks. They are supplying children with the tools they need to learn.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


PolitiFact Florida, the fact-checking reports from the Tampa Bay Times, will now be in Halifax Media Group newspapers around the state, under a new agreement announced today.

Florida Truth-O-Meter rulings, which appear in the Tampa Bay Times, The Miami Herald and online at are now available to readers in other Florida cities. In a statement issued Tuesday, the agreement will bring the feature to readers of the Sarasota Herald-TribuneThe Daytona Beach News-JournalTheLakeland Ledger, the Winter Haven News ChiefThe Gainesville Sun, the Ocala Star-Banner, the Panama City News Herald, the Northwest Florida Daily News of Fort Walton Beach and the Leesburg Daily Commercial.

PolitiFact Florida, launched in 2010 by the Tampa Bay Times in partnership with The Miami Herald, gives readers a way to sort out the truth in state politics. The fact-checking reports hold politicians and candidates accountable for their comments and political advertising. PolitiFact Florida is fact-checking the Florida governor’s race, the state’s congressional delegation in Washington and potential 2016 presidential candidates from Florida, among other topics.

EMAIL I DIDN’T OPEN – “Local Resident Named Finalist in Search for Next Internet Cat Superstar”

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.