Sunburn for 8/8 – 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: On this day in 1968, Richard Nixon accepted his party’s nomination for president at the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach. Exactly six years later he announced to the nation that, in the wake of the Watergate scandal, he would become the only president in history to resign the nation’s highest office. Despite Nixon’s many significant accomplishments, including opening relations with China, his legacy has been defined by Watergate. While Nixon’s office initially called it a “third-rate burglary,” the cover up brought down his presidency.

Now, on to the ‘burn…

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION — WHO IS CHARLIE CRIST? via Amy Hollyfield of the Tampa Bay Times

“He may be among Florida’s most famous politicians, but who is Charlie Crist? Charming or scheming? Focused or distracted? Disciplined or reckless? Reporters Adam C. Smith andMichael Kruse have spent months reporting and interviewed more than 100 people to bring you an in-depth and unprecedented portait of the former Republican-now-Democrat who is running for governor. Read it in full on on Friday and Sunday in the Tampa Bay Times.”


Charlie Crist’s political committee received another hefty check of $500,000 from the Democratic Governors Association. DGA donations to the former Republican governor now total $1.5 million.

DGA also gave $1.1 million in total to the Florida Democratic Party, as well as $963,000 to the grassroots political Florida for All.

This now makes the DGA’s Florida investment $3.6 million, spent to either boost Crist or oppose Rick Scott, known as one of the more vulnerable Republican governors in November.

Most polls are showing the race is somewhat tied, with some giving Scott a slight edge.

Although DGA money is certainly substantial, checks cut from the Republican Governors Association have been even larger.

During the current election cycle, Scott’s political committee “Let’s Get to Work” received $6.5 million to date from the RGA, with another $2.25 million going to the Republican Party of Florida.


“Let’s Get to Work,” the political committee closely tied to Gov. Scott’s re-election effort made a late-July spend of about $637,000 on direct-mail expenses, according to the latest filed finance reports.

“Work” spent $718,715 between July 26 and Aug. 1, much of it going to Majority Strategies, based in Ponte Vedra Beach, for direct-mail expenses dated July 28 and July 30.

In the same weeklong period, the committee raised $54,500 for an overall total to $33.09 million. The committee also spent nearly $19.87 million through Aug. 1, reports show.


As Gov. Scott crisscrosses the state on his “Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful” tour, a new video from American Bridge 21st Century dogs the governor over his “sudden interest in environmental protection.”

Scott is traversing the state in an effort to promote a plan to invest $500 million for alternative waters, $500 million for spring restoration projects and protection of the Florida Everglades. He is also calling to stop polluters by way of increased fines from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

It simply will not work, say the folks at American Bridge.

Scott’s attempt to convince Floridians he is now an environmentalist goes beyond the normal election-year pandering.

“As rising sea levels associated with climate change pose a greater and greater threat to the Florida coastline,” goes a statement released by American Bridge on Thursday. “Rick Scott has only doubled and tripled down on his ‘I’m not a scientist’ buffoonery.”

RPOF SLAMS CRIST ON ENVIRONMENT IN NEW WEB AD via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News

The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) unveiled a new web video, hitting Crist on the environment. … The ad highlights Crist relying on a private jet to get around the state.

“Charlie Crist is so desperate for his old job back he often pontificates about his love for Florida’s environment, but crisscrosses the state in his polluter pal’s private jet – the height of hypocrisy,” said RPOF chairwoman Leslie Dougher. “When it comes to the environment, Crist is just full of a lot of hot air.”

Scott has been touring Florida this week, showcasing his new environmental proposals.

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Both candidates in the race for Congress in the Florida Panhandle say the Apalachicola River and the tri-state water wars are an important issue for voters in the district.

Alabama, Florida and Georgia have been fighting in federal court since 1990 over water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint system. Last year, Gov. Scott filed a lawsuit against Georgia in the U. S. Supreme Court seeking to divide water among the states.

Rep. Steve Southerland is facing Democratic challenger Gwen Graham, daughter of former U. S. Sen. Bob Graham, in the Nov. 4 election.

Southerland said he has been working to get federal law changes to counter what he says is a misinterpretation of federal law by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. But Graham said there needs to be less finger-pointing and more cooperation with other states and the federal agency.

She also said she would work to protect the river by establishing relationships with the Corps of Engineers, which operates dams that control water flow in the river.

But Southerland said in response that Scott didn’t have any choice but to file a lawsuit against Georgia because the U. S. Supreme Court had refused to hear Florida’s appeals from two federal appeals court.

The federal law now urges the governors to reach a water sharing agreement. And it says that if they can’t, Congress “should consider appropriate legislation to address these matters including any necessary clarifications” to the Water Supply Act of 1958


Republicans who control the Florida Legislature kicked off a special session Thursday by proposing to tweak seven of the state’s 27 congressional districts in order to comply with a judge’s ruling.

The session is scheduled to last up to nine days, but legislative leaders are moving ahead quickly with a new map that would make changes to a handful of districts located in north and central Florida.

The session is being sparked by a judge’s July ruling that found two districts were drawn illegally to benefit Republicans. Circuit Judge Terry Lewis last week gave legislators until Aug. 15 to draw up a new map.

House Speaker Will Weatherford insisted that the new maps would be free from the partisan influence that Lewis ruled had rendered the previous map adopted in 2012 unconstitutional. The Wesley Chapel Republican said the new proposal was being drawn in consultation between legislative employees and attorneys to address Lewis’ ruling.

“They are working on a map that is legal in nature, that is completely apolitical and is focused on addressing the concerns of the court,” said Weatherford.

But the new map was also drawn up largely behind closed doors. The two Republicans in charge of the redistricting committee met for hours a day earlier to fine-tune the map before releasing it publicly.

Sen. Bill Galvano and the main senator working on redistricting, maintained that the meeting was legal and ethical under legislative rules.

The proposal released Thursday includes changes to the two districts flagged by Lewis as invalid: The sprawling district that stretches from Jacksonville to Orlando and is held by U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown and the central Florida district represented by U.S. Rep. Dan Webster.

Brown’s district would no longer include the city of Sanford in central Florida but her district would include more of Putnam County in north Florida. Webster would lose part of Orange County, while the district of U.S. Rep. John Mica’s district would also change.

The coalition of groups that sued the Legislature had proposed shifting Brown’s district to north Florida, saying the current district that reaches down into central Florida should be “abandoned.” The groups in their lawsuit contended Republicans packed Brown’s district with Democrats in order to make it easier for Republicans in adjoining districts.

“Slight alterations will not correct the constitutional defects Judge Lewis identified,” the groups wrote in a letter to Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz.

But George Meros, an attorney representing the House, questioned the validity of that proposal. Meros said that such a configuration could result in Brown losing her seat to a white candidate.

“There is no question that it makes it less likely for an African American candidate to win in an east-west configuration,” Meros said. The federal Voting Rights Act bars states from diluting the voting strength of minorities.

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Rick Scott says All Aboard is ‘100% private venture’ and ‘no state money involved’

Gov. Scott has been on the defense for months about All Aboard Florida, a controversial passenger rail project that he supports.

What we found is that All Aboard Florida is a private enterprise, but it also takes advantage of infrastructure paid for by the government.

Proposed by Florida East Coast Industries, LLC, All Aboard will use private financing for a large portion of its costs and has applied for a $1.6 billion federal loan. So there’s definitely federal money involved, but is there state money? We found three points of contention here.

Quiet zones: In response to residents’ concerns about noise from All Aboard trains, the Legislature this year approved $10 million in “quiet zone” money for horns at railroad crossings.

Tri-Rail: Tri-Rail is an existing government-run passenger rail service in South Florida overseen by the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority. All Aboard mentioned in bond documents the possibility of using $44 million in state money to connect their trains to Tri-Rail, according to the Naples Daily News.

The Orlando International Airport: This is the most concrete connection between All Aboard and state funding. The airport is building a complex to include the airport’s people mover, parking and ground transportation. Connected to that project, the airport is also building an intermodal transportation facility — and that’s the piece that will get about $214 million from a loan and grant from the state.

While All Aboard Florida is a private venture, it has applied for a $1.6 billion federal loan. Also, the state is kicking in money for infrastructure, particularly for a new intermodal center at the Orlando International Airport. The funding for that infrastructure doesn’t go directly to All Aboard, but All Aboard does derive some benefit from the spending.

Overall, we rate Scott’s claim Mostly False.


Florida economists are projecting that the state’s economy will continue to remain in good shape over the next few years.

State economists are meeting to predict how much the state is expected to collect in taxes.

Gov. Scott and legislative leaders rely on these forecasts to determine whether the state has a budget surplus.

Preliminary forecasts show that the state’s main budget account could grow nearly 4 percent during the fiscal year that started in July. The preliminary estimates show a roughly 4 percent growth in the fiscal year that starts in July 2015.

That’s a slight dip from March forecasts. One big reason is there has been a drop in corporate income taxes.

REAX: “The estimates adopted today by the General Revenue Estimating Conference indicate continued stability in Florida’s economy. The very modest fluctuations in this forecast signify that the previous estimate is essentially on target. The House will continue to monitor these estimates as we look to prepare for the 2015-16 Fiscal Year.” — House Appropriations Chair Seth McKeel

SPOTTED: Rep. Dana Young, heading to the Capitol.

SPOTTED: Rep. Kathleen Peters picking up a new state ID card.

SPOTTED: Rep. Shevrin Jones, offering sartorial advice to a blogger in need of a new set of cuff links.

***Today’s SUNBURN is sponsored by Corcoran & Johnston Government Relations. One of Florida’s Top Lobbying Firms, Corcoran & Johnston has demonstrated the ability to navigate government and successfully deliver results for clients, time and again.  To learn more visit***


Florida Senate leaders continue to funnel cash into political committees in advance of the fall election cycle.

“Florida Leadership Committee,” a group associated with Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala, chair of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee and seeking election as Senate president in 2016, raised $64,700 between July 26 and Aug. 1, according to the most recent finance reports.

Florida Leadership received $25,000 from Jacksonville-based health insurance giant Florida Blue. Reports show the Latvala committee took in $1,381,471 in total as of Aug. 1, spending $275,486, the reports show.

At the same time, “Innovate Florida,” a committee chaired by Bradenton Republican Sen. Bill Galvano, another possible future Senate president, posted $40,500 raised from July 26 to Aug. 1. The committee raised a total of $1,050,479 through Aug. 1, spending $270,611.

“Treasure Coast Alliance,” a committee associated with Stuart Republican Sen. Joe Negron raised a total of $1,491,500 as of July 25, spending $906,104, according to state Division of Elections. Updated numbers are still pending as of Wednesday. Negron is Latvala’s competition for the Senate presidency after the 2016 elections.


A collection of Duval County leaders announced the endorsement of attorney Paul Renner in the GOP primary for House District 15.

Renner, a Jacksonville native, faces Jay Fant in the Aug. 26 primary to represent the western part of Jacksonville and much of Duval County.

Former Republican state Sen. Steve Wise, Clerk of the Court and former Jacksonville City Council President Ronnie Fussell, former Jacksonville City Council President Alberta Hipps and Jacksonville Councilman Ray Holt all have come out in support of Renner.

In a statement, Wise said he is happy Renner running for the District 15 seat.

“Northeast Florida needs a proven conservative leader who can be a strong voice for education, ensuring parents have the rights and choices they deserve in education, as well as protecting the future of homeschooling in Florida,” he said.


Lakeland lawyer John Shannon has been late paying his property and income taxes more than a dozen times since the 1980s, according to tax records. Tax liens have been placed on some of his property, and he has had six federal tax liens for failure to pay his income taxes on time, according to the court clerk records.

Shannon and Colleen Burton are competing in the Aug. 26 primary for the House seat in District 40 left vacant by the departure of Rep. Seth McKeel, who cannot run again because of term limits. The winner in the primary will face the Democratic Party candidate and a candidate from the American Independence Party in the Nov. 4 general election.

Liens against property owned by Shannon, 67, date to the 1980s. One federal lien was listed at $87,242 as far back as 1987. Shannon was released from the lien in 1994.

According to the Polk County Tax Collector’s Office website, Shannon’s property taxes were late being paid on his home in 2000-2002 and 2007-2013, with the 2012 taxes being paid by Shannon on March 28 of this year.

Shannon said the property tax liens against his property have been settled, with the exception of one for $6,200 this year on his house, which is valued at $348,000 on the tax rolls. For a variety of reasons, tax roll values frequently don’t reflect market value, and Shannon listed his house as an $850,000 asset on his candidate financial disclosure form filed with the state.

The liens are all paid, Shannon said. His investments lost money during the economic downturn, he said, and in 2000, he assumed full-time responsibility for his daughters, who were 5 and 8.


If you can judge a person by who he hangs around with, House candidate Ben Sorensen has problems with fellow Democrats.

Running in the House District 100′s Democratic primary to replace term-limited state Rep. Joe Gibbons, Sorensen has been endorsed by three groups more familiar to Republican candidates.

Endorsing Sorensen are the Republican-leaning Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Builders & Contractors and The Jewish Leadership Council, a pro-voucher group.

These names struck me as strange when I was perusing Sorensen’s website. Their organization’s emblems were emblazoned across the main page, but were removed after I called him to ask questions about the endorsements.

A former Presbyterian minister, Sorensen, 36, says he got the endorsements because he offers a “fresh approach.”

The comment is a thinly veiled attack on long-time Democratic activist Joe Geller, his leading opponent in the primary. A third Democratic in the primary is John Paul Alvarez.

A lawyer for 34 years, Geller is the former Miami-Dade Democratic chair and a lawyer on the Al Gore presidential recount team in 2000 and a kay member of Barack Obama campaign.


The Tampa Tribune takes a look at the GOP primary in Senate District 20 here.

The Tampa Tribune looks at the GOP primary for House District 68 here.

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On Context FloridaBarney Bishop makes an interesting observation: The authors of Amendment 2 – the measure seeking to legalize medical marijuana — specifically wrote it so that the entire marijuana industry is exempt from liability, except for automobile accidents. Social media serves to distort much, says Ed Moore, but what is really needed is honesty and consistency. Shannon Nickinson notes that Escambia County residents have a chance to determine what the price of their piece of paradise is. They can choose to invest in educating young children to better prepare them for the world they will face, or choose to pay workers wages that don’t keep pace with peer communities. Pensacola can remain a quiet little town with a big intergenerational poverty problem, which keeps too many on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. Todd Dagenais, University of Central Florida’s head volleyball coach, believes it is important to for athletic children — and their parents — to maintain perspective.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Facing Florida with Mike Vasalinda: Neill Franklin, Scott Turow, and Wolfgand Beauregard.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU:  Paula Dockery, Ana Cruz, Dr. Susan MacManus, Eric Deggans

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: SD 22 candidate Judithanne McLauchlan

Political Connections on CF 13: Marco Rubio

The Usual Suspects which airs on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Steve Vancore, Sean Pittman, Dr. Ed Moore, and Peter Schorsch

SPOTTED: Marc Caputo, playing landlord.

***CoreMessage is a full-service communications and issues advocacy firm with the experience, relationships and expertise to help you get your message out. Connected at the state capitol and throughout Florida, the CoreMessage team unites issues with advocates, messages with media and innovative solutions with traditional tactics to get results. Follow CoreMessage on Twitter and visit them on the Web at***

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Kirsten Borman and Southern Strategy Group’s David Browning. Celebrating today is my good friend, Slater Bayliss.

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.