Sunburn for 8/26 – 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 firm best known for smart, strong and strategic counsel across the diverse and ever-changing media landscape: Today is Primary Election Day  in Florida, and long-time residents know better than to dismiss the importance of statewide primaries. After all, our state’s political history has plenty of examples of candidates who stormed out of nowhere to capture their party’s nomination – and statewide office. From Reubin Askew  and Bob Graham  to Lawton Chiles  and Rick Scott,  Florida’s primary process has helped propel once-obscure candidates to statewide office. So remember, don’t take anything for granted and GET OUT AND VOTE!

Now, on to the ‘burn…


Florida’s primary election for governor, Congress, the Legislature and other offices is today. Here are five things voters should know:

Governor’s race: Most attention is being focused at the top of the ballot where Democrats and Republicans will chose their nominee for governor. For Democrats, the choice is between former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist and former state Sen. Nan Rich. Crist has mostly ignored Rich even though she has been in the race much longer than he has. Crist has raised more money and drawn more attention and is viewed as the overwhelming favorite. Rich has questioned Crist’s switch to the Democratic Party and his policy changes. Gov. Rick Scott is facing two political unknowns in the Republican primary.

Attorney General: Democratic voters are deciding who will challenge incumbent Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi in the general election. George Sheldon, a former deputy attorney general and a top aide in the Obama administration, is running against State Rep. Perry Thurston from Fort Lauderdale. Neither candidate has been able to raise a lot of money and relied on radio ads and campaign appearances at Democratic forums to get the word out.

Congress: Most members of the U.S. House aren’t on this year’s primary ballot. Only eight incumbent members drew opponents from their own political parties. But there are two Republican primaries that are drawing a lot of attention. GOP voters in south Florida will decide from among five candidates for a nominee to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia. The five candidates include Miami-Dade school board member Carlos Curbelo and former U.S. Rep. David Rivera who was defeated by Garcia just two years ago. There are also six Republicans vying to challenge U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy in November.

Legislature: There are 41 legislative races that have primaries. While some incumbents have been challenged it’s the primaries for open legislative seats in places such as Jacksonville, Sarasota and Panama City that have triggered the most combative contests.

Old Map Remains In Place: The Florida Legislature recently adopted a new congressional map that alters the boundaries of seven of the state’s 27 congressional districts. But the judge who ordered state legislators to change the districts agreed to delay the implementation of the new boundaries until the 2016 election.

5 THINGS TO WATCH IN TUESDAY’S PRIMARY via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Here is a guide to five things that will be of primary importance today.

Scott’s margin of victory: Unlike his bruising 2010 primary battle with Bill McCollum that produced a narrow victory, Scott’s path to the Republican nomination is a breeze this time.

Crist can’t cruise: Crist’s debut on a Democratic Party ballot should deliver a decisive victory over former state Sen. Nan Rich, thanks to his enormous advantages in name recognition and money. But expectations for Rich are so low that if she gets, say, 30 percent of the Democratic vote, it will be viewed by Republicans, if not also the media, as evidence of an anti-Crist faction.

More ballots should count: After years of being accused by Democrats of trying to suppress turnout, Republican legislators have taken recent steps to make voting easier. Counties can offer up to 14 days of early voting, including on the Sundaybefore the election.

Will Democrats vote: One-third of all Florida Democrats live in South Florida, and in the last midterm primary in 2010, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties lagged far behind the rest of the state in turnout. Broward is the worst of the bunch and is home to more Democrats than any other county.

Choosing Bondi’s challenger: The only statewide race with any suspense is the Democratic primary for attorney general, with the winner to face Bondi in November.

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PRIMARY WILL TEST CRIST’S SUPPORT AMONG DEMOCRATS via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press

… Crist needs to win big to show that Democrats have accepted his political conversion. If (Nan) Rich gets a sizable portion of the vote despite poor name recognition and a fraction of the money Crist has raised, it could be a bad sign for the former governor who is trying to revive his political career with a new party.

(Democrat Arlene) Ustin hopes Rich is her party’s nominee to challenge Scott, but she recognizes that Crist is the favorite. She says she will support Crist if he’s nominated, but it will take some healing. She, like other Rich supporters, doesn’t like that Crist refused to debate lifelong Democrat Rich and virtually ignored her as a candidate.

Many Democrats may be wrestling with similar misgivings.

If Rich should pull off an upset, it will be a stunning defeat and the end of Crist’s political comeback. It would also force Scott to rethink his strategy. He has spent millions of dollars attacking Crist with the assumption he will win the nomination.

But most observers don’t expect a Rich upset. The question now is how many Democrats will stick with Crist if he is the party’s nominee.

There are other Democratic voters who are firmly behind him. Despite his 2010 U.S. Senate campaign, in which he at first he criticized President Barack Obama’s federal spending and health care policies while telling voters he was as conservative as they come, Crist was a moderate governor. Crist later dropped out of GOP Senate primary and ran as an independent, quickly moving back to the political center.


Although the polls don’t close down for good in until 7 p.m., some GOP strategists have been trotting out the mantra that Crist must somehow take 80 percent of the vote in his battle with Nan Rich, or else he’s in trouble going into his contest against Rick Scott in the fall.

“50 (percent) plus one and I’ll be a happy man,” Crist responded when asked if he’s heard of such talk.

The one-time former Republican Governor was in an extremely humble mood Monday, before most assuredly he will win the Democratic nomination for governor over former Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich.

“I’m just working hard to be the nominee for the Democratic Party in Florida,” he followed up. “I hope it goes well tomorrow. I don’t have any expectation of what the number should or should not be. I just want to be able to defeat Rick Scott and get Florida back on track.”

Crist met with reporters and volunteers at his campaign office in West Tampa, one of five stops that he’s making to get maximum media coverage and presumably drive up his vote totals in the election. Twice he was asked if he regretting the one thing that Rich had asked of the first time Democrat this year — that he would submit to at least one televised debate, something that some political observers initially believed that Crist might resign himself to.

When asked about the skepticism that statewide Democrats may still foster about him, he spouted a number of issues that he says should make them more comfortable about himself. “I’m a guy whose always fought for civil rights. Always fought for public education. Always fought for a woman’s right to choose and never interfered with that process. Fought for people to have lower property insurance rates, unlike Rick Scott …lower phone bills. I’ve always been an advocate for the middle class and for minorities. Fought for an attained automatic restoration of [convicted felons’] rights. Support the minimum wage increase. All these things are natural for me.”


Unless an Ebola-fueled zombie apocalypse devastates the world today, Crist is going to win the Democratic nomination in Florida’s governor’s race. Not one credible political prognosticator thinks otherwise. So one thing to look for on Tuesday night is not whether Crist wins or loses — duh — but what is his margin of victory?

In Las Vegas, there are plenty of smart guys who can tell you who is going to win a football game. The challenge comes in beating the spread – the allotted points the favorite has to overcome to win money for their backers who have money pending on the scoring outcome of the game. For example, in the opening game of the college football season, Florida State is favored by 17.5 points over Oklahoma State. Betters can gamble on either side of that equation, on the “chalk,” meaning they believe FSU will beat OSU by more than 17.5 points, or with the underdog, meaning they think OSU will either beat FSU outright or lose to the ‘Noles by less than 17.5 points.

However, before someone can bet one way or another versus the spread, the line must be set. The really smart guys in Vegas have to crunch whatever numbers they think are important and set a line. Not a line about who might win or lose, but a line that will have an equal number of betters on both sides of it.

In an ideal situation for the house, there is an equal amount of money on both sides of the line, i.e. a million dollars in bets have been made on Florida State to cover the spread and a million dollars have been wagered that Oklahoma State will beat the spread. The house does not make money on winners or losers, rather by charging a 10 percent vigorish on losing bets.

This is why it’s so important for the house to set a perfect line.

… Were Crist to keep Rich well below 40 percent, that would keep the Monday morning quarterbacks from squawking too much about the lack of enthusiasm among Democrats for Charlie.

Still, I don’t believe 65-66 percent is where I’d set the line in Crist vs. Rich. I think too much of the money would still come in for Crist to beat a 30-point spread.

No, to me, the perfect spread in the Democratic primary in which there are just two candidates on the ballot (meaning none of the votes, even if it’s just 1 or 2 percent, will go to some unknown candidate) is Crist +39.5. Were I running a sports book (not that I ever did such a thing), the line I believe would put an equal volume of action on both sides is whether Crist will reach 70 percent. If he gets to 70 percent, that means Rich only took 30 percent and Crist will have covered the spread. But it’s difficult for any candidate running against a credible opponent to take 70 percent of the vote. Rick Scott will easily win his primary with more than 70 percent of the vote because he’s running against a bunch of tomato cans. But Crist is running against a respected former legislative leader.

If Crist were to reach 70 percent, that would represent a very strong showing for him and would give him a nice boost heading into the general election.

But beating a spread of 39.5 points, whether in football or in politics, requires a near-perfect game-time performance. Does Crist, the former walk-on college quarterback, have that kind of game in him?


Regular readers of this blog are no doubt aware that I haven’t always agreed with Crist in the past. When he was governor I didn’t like everything he did, but I gave him credit where it was due, examples being the BP oil spill and his support for the much needed stimulus from President Obama for high-speed rail. The latter would have brought much needed jobs, and contrary to dishonest reporting from some news outlets recently, Florida taxpayers would not have faced extra costs. (See  22 Tampa Tribune articles between Oct. 11, 2009 – Oct. 30, 2013 for quotes from state and federal officials differing with Rick Scott’s rationale and eventual rejection of federal funds, along with recent opinion writers who continue to promote misinformation on high-speed rail.)

Others remember Crist’s stimulus support as simply “the hug.”

Yes, he hugged President Obama and dared to do something that was good for the state. That was when his own party turned on him. Because everyone knows if something’s good for the state and everyday citizens, the Republican Party, both in Florida and nationwide, run from it. Especially if it comes from President Obama.

I haven’t been extremely vocal in my support for Crist recently, but whenever I have, I’ve come under attack from Nan Rich supporters. Rich has sold herself as the only “true Democrat” in the race, and early on I defended her when the GOP attacked her, but that was a long time ago when she first entered the race. After Scott officially declared he was running for reelection as “CEO” of Florida, Inc., that changed. Suddenly the GOP loved Nan Rich. Why? Because they thought they could beat her.  But here’s the thing, instead of going after Scott, she embraced their support.

I’m sorry, but Rich told us early on where she stood: “I’ll take all the help I can get” from the Republicans who would work for her defeat at the hands of Scott.

Crist tried to do the right thing for Floridians and Republicans turned on him. Crist stood up to the Republican Party, and still does to this day. Nan Rich, on the other hand, was willing to join them. If that meant Scott would win again, so be it.

Being a “true Democrat” means actions speak louder than words. Charlie Crist stood up for Floridians in the past, and he’s standing up to Republicans destroying the state now.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Nan Rich will visit polling locations in Broward & Miami-Dade on Election Day: 9:15 a.m. – 9:45 a.m. at Century Village; 13300 SW 10th St., Pembroke Pines; 11:00 a.m. -11:45 a.m. at  Myrtle Grove Presbyterian; 2961 NW 175th St., Miami Gardens; 12:00 p.m. – 12:45 p.m. at Sunkist Grove Community Center, 12500 NW 13th Ave. in North Miami.

SURPRISING EMAIL: “Tomorrow is Primary Day in Florida, and I want to make sure you have a plan for voting.” — Alex Sink

TWEET, TWEET: @RosemaryGoudrea: I wonder what the margin will be in the Crist-Rich race, though. A lot of Dems I know are voting for her.

TWEET, TWEET: @stevebousquet: The last time a party-switcher had an easy FL primary? The late Rep. David Coley (D to R) won Panhandle House primary with ease in 2004.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you in part by the Florida Medical Association: Affordable, safe, patient-centered health care in Florida starts with a physician-led team, with all health care professionals playing valuable and appropriate roles. Learn more here.***



Palm Beach County wrapped up 14 days of early voting with an apparently smooth debut for new polling place technology.

A total of 15,757 voters turned out at a cost to taxpayers of about $360,000. That works out to about $22.85 per ballot cast.

It’s an investment that will pay off in later, higher-turnout elections, Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher says.


Early voting for the Aug. 26 election ended at 5 p.m. Sunday. According to statistics posted by the Supervisor of Elections Office, 1,856 cast a ballot over the nine-day early voting period.

Half the early votes came from registered Democrats, 41 percent from Republicans. The remaining 9 percent were ballots cast by those registered as other than Democrat or Republican.

Mail ballots are continuing to come in to the Elections offices. As of Aug. 24, 252,401 mail ballots had been distributed and 39.65 percent – 100,085 – had been returned. According to statistics from the Elections Office, there are 617,925 voters registered to participate in the Aug. 26 elections in Pinellas.

Forty-three percent of mail ballots returned as of Aug. 24 were from Republicans and 41 percent from Democrats. The remaining 16 percent came from those registered as something other than one of the two major political parties.

There are 219,538 registered Republicans in Pinellas, 223,751 Democrats and 174,636 registered as other.


Early voting in the Florida primary this year ended over the weekend, with nearly 2,100 registered voters in Marion County taking advantage of the 64 hours allotted throughout eight days to cast a primary ballot. And just less than 15,000 mail-in ballots have been received so far.

When the six early voting sites in Ocala, Belleview, Dunnellon, Ocklawaha and Reddick closed at 6 p.m. Saturday, 2,091 of the county’s 216,391 registered had cast ballots, according to figures posted on the Marion County Supervisor of Elections website.

That works out to a little more than 32 voters per hour, or an average of about 5.5 voters per hour at each site. Saturday was the biggest voting day, with 453 voting early and 628 mail-in ballots coming in.

Combined with 14,926 mail-in ballots returned as of Sunday, the total vote cast so far this primary was 17,017 — or just under 8 percent, Elections Supervisor Wesley Wilcox said. He said he expects another 1,000 mail-in ballots to return by the 7 p.m. deadline; some 31,000 ballots were sent out.

Obviously ready for a larger turnout over the eight days that began Aug. 16, Wilcox said that he’s “hugely disappointed.”

Along with the remainder of the state, Marion County’s 121 election precincts will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. for traditional day-of voting. Wilcox is looking for another 10 percent of Marion’s registered voters turning out during the 12 hours.


Florida Chamber Vice President for Political Affairs Marian Johnson is hosting a Primary Night Election Watch Party, beginning 6:30 p.m. at the Chamber office, 136 S. Bronough St. in Tallahassee. Senior Director of Political Affairs Mike Grissom will co-host.



Franklin Perez, Libertarian candidate for the Seminole County House District 28 does not make running on a third party platform any easier.

In November, Perez will face the winner of Tuesday’s GOP primary, which will likely be incumbent state Rep. Jason Brodeur.

Like most candidates, Perez will spend primary day at an Election Night meet-and-greet party. But his event will be a little different. Perez’s party will be from 8 p.m. at Rachel’s Gentlemen’s Club — the most luxurious strip club in Casselberry.

No, that wasn’t a misprint.

“Come and Enjoy the Company of Semi-Nude Beautiful Ladies – Eat, Drink, and be Merry,” says the event’s Yahoo! Groups invite.

Holding a campaign event at a strip club is surely beyond the norm, even for Florida. But it does make it tough to take him seriously.

It is not as if Perez is an outlier, either; like fellow gubernatorial Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie, the Oviedo resident polled relatively well for a third party candidate — even winning a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando (HCCMO) straw poll on July 30.


@lizbethkb: Polls open in just 24 hours! #SWFL

@SenChrisSmith: We are getting a brief reprieve from the “donate $5 to my campaign” emails, now inundated with “Come to my watch party” emails.

@gbennettpost: .@Carl_Domino put another $60,000 personal money into his #FL18 GOP primary race over weekend; his total personal stake now $485,000.

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Here’s an unofficial tally of how much has been spent to-date with five of the top GOP political consulting firms:

Data Targeting:  $1,643,272; SIM (and affiliates):  $1,617,667; Frontline:  $905,026; Public Concepts: $842,612; DMS: $540,879


Two weeks ago, this blog shared the strong fundraising numbers by Sen. Joe Negron’s political committee relative to those reported by a political committee supporting Sen. Jack Latvala, his competition for the Senate presidency. Indeed, at the time, Latvala’s committee, “Florida Leadership Committee” showed a total of $1.4 million, while Negron’s “Treasure Coast Alliance” brought in $1.5 million.

But as Florida Senate leaders continue to raise funds and funnel cash into political committees and to allied campaigns, the story didn’t end there.

This quarter, Latvala’s committee has delivered a clear turnaround. Since Sine Die, the Florida Leadership Committee has pulled ahead, and has three times more cash on hand.

From May 2014 through August 22, the Treasure Coast Alliance has received $214,000 in contributions, while the Florida Leadership Committee has brought in about $742,000 — a difference of over a half a million dollars.

In total, Treasure Coast Alliance has a raised a total of $1.6 million, and Florida Leadership Committee, $1.63 million — a $30,752 difference.

Expenses are where the gap truly widens. Negron’s committee has spent $1.14 million to Latvala’s $295,420 — a difference of $847,291.

This means that in terms of cash on hand, the Treasure Coast Alliance is left with $457,339 compared to the Florida Leadership Committee, with $1.34 million — a difference of $878,043 in Latvala’s favor.

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AWAY MESSAGE OF THE DAY via Mike Hightower: “As you may know I have retired after almost 34 years of service with Florida Blue.”


On Context Florida: Rick Scott is in the midst of his “amnesia tour,” says former state Sen. Dan GelberThursday he announced that if you re-elect him, he would bring education spending to record levels, even though it Rick Scott who sought the largest education cut in Florida history. Unlike the pure, rabid racism of a half century ago, Daniel Tilson notes that the murder of Michael Brown in Missouri seems equally, deeply rooted in economic discrimination. Florida’s primary election is today, writes Florida TaxWatch CEO Dominic Calabro, and primaries are just as important as the general elections. Richard E. Lapchick, director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, feels especially embarrassed that colleges have the worst record in sports for hiring women and people of color.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


There is no shortage of reasons to worry about the state of the polling industry. Response rates to political polls are dismal. Even polls that make every effort to contact a representative sample of voters now get no more than 10 percent to complete their surveys — down from about 35 percent in the 1990s.

And there are fewer high-quality polls than there used to be. The cost to commission one can run well into five figures, and it has increased as response rates have declined. Under budgetary pressure, many news organizations have understandably preferred to trim their polling budgets rather than lay off newsroom staff.

Cheaper polling alternatives exist, but they come with plenty of problems. “Robopolls,” which use automated scripts rather than live interviewers, often get response rates in the low to mid-single digits. Most are also prohibited by law from calling cell phones, which means huge numbers of people are excluded from their surveys.

Another tactic is for a pollster to copy off its neighbors. The cheap polls may “herd” off stronger polls, tweaking their results to match them. This can make them superficially more accurate, but they add little value. Where there are better polls available, the cheap poll duplicates the results already in hand. Where there aren’t, the cheap poll may stray far from an accurate and representative sample of the race.

Then there are the companies that have cheated in a much more explicit way: by fabricating data. There is strong evidence that Strategic Vision and Research 2000 faked some or all of their survey results. The odds are that there are more firms out there like them.

Internet-based polling has been a comparative bright spot. In fact, the average online poll was more accurate than the average telephone poll in the 2012 presidential election. However, there is not yet a consensus in the industry about best practices for online polls. Some online methods do not use probability sampling, traditionally the bedrock of polling theory and practice. This has worked well enough in some cases but not so well in others.


Many readers of this blog live and breathe politics. And now, thanks to a new app, you can eat and purchase and decorate your home that way, too. Or, if you were already disgruntled with how polarized society is and has become, and want to complain about yet another example of politics-infecting-what-is-otherwise-neutral-ground… this app will offer fodder for that to you, too.

It’s called “BuyPartisan” and offers consumers data on the political orientations and contributions of corporations. The app developer, Matthew Colbert, figured that partisans would want to know that some portion of their  Campbell’s soup or Kellogg’s cereal budget may be going to support political foes.

Diehard Democrats and Republicans can now shop the aisle’s scanning barcodes of products to see whether the parent company is aligned with their views. For many companies, the app shows you what percent of contributions went to each party, where its employees fall on the political spectrum, and where its board of directors do, too.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Doug Adkins, Joy Friedman, and Rep. Irv Slosberg.

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.