Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
LAUNCHING TODAY: THE LATEST EDITION OF INFLUENCE MAGAZINE — WITH A FOCUS ON CENTRAL FLORIDA Click here to read it
Anyone who actually lives in bustling Orlando and the surrounding communities will tell you the region is much, much more than what surrounds Cinderella’s Castle.
This fact was never more true than in the days and weeks that followed the tragedy at the Pulse Nightclub.
Elements that often unite communities — sports teams, food culture, generations of residents living in the same neighborhood — are young or nonexistent in Orlando, where nearly two-thirds of all residents were born out of state.
Such a situation has left a vacuum in Orlando that has been filled with symbols of Gay Pride, a result of the tragedy brought on by the Pulse nightclub shooting. Signs are all around Orlando; rainbow banners fly alongside the American flag at City Hall; many hip neighborhoods and suburbs like Winter Park proudly display Pride stickers and similar symbols. Lake Eola’s fountain – the heart of Orlando’s downtown – is awash nightly with gay pride colors and stores quickly sell out of T-shirts sporting “#OrlandoUnited” with rainbow hearts.
My wife and I witnessed this unity firsthand during a recent, non-Mickey visit. We were in town for a benefit performance staged by Bravo’s Andy Cohen and CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Before they walked on stage, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, his shoulders burdened with the weight of the world, was given a thunderous standing ovation by the crowd.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
In this edition of INFLUENCE Magazine, veteran reporter Scott Powers examines Dyer’s pre- and post-Pulse legacy. As difficult as dealing with the aftermath of the Pulse tragedy has been, Dyer — unencumbered by term limits and presiding over a booming boom town — may have one of the best jobs in Florida politics.
If Dyer is king of Central Florida, there still remain many, many princes and princesses who wield significant, um, influence. This issue introduces you to many of them, while also exploring why the increasing number of Hispanics in Central Florida have so few identifiable power brokers.
If there is a center to Orlando politics outside of City Hall, it may be law offices of GrayRobinson, which represents many of the largest interests in the region, including the City of Orlando itself. Our cover story is about the new GrayRobinson, forged by its merger with former House Speaker Dean Cannon’s lobbying shop, Capitol Insight.
Like everything else in town, GrayRobinson seems to be growing by leaps and bounds.
… including the size of this magazine, which is now more than a year old and, in this period of declining ad revenue for print journalism, is close to ‘making it.’ Our editors and reporters are beginning to pivot to the next phase of this project, which includes more original reporting and features, especially about important policies. Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster does this with her story about “The Seminole Solution,” while Mitch Perry explains how Central Florida is ground zero for “The Politics of Disruption.”
The best read? Perhaps it’s Andy Gardiner‘s frank exit interview.
Of course, there are still pages and pages of fun features, like Rochelle Koff’s guide to adult dining at the theme parks, Fred Piccolo’s cool infographics, and our quick hits in the Political Aficionado section.
Dare I say reading this edition of INFLUENCE is like taking a tour of – oh boy – a theme park about politics.
***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Bright House Networks for Business, your trusted provider of industry leading communications and networking services for any size business – from startup to enterprise, and everything in between. We offer a full portfolio of products and services, including Business Phone and cloud-based Hosted Voice, Business Internet at speeds up to 350 Mbps to fiber-based Dedicated Internet Access, several tiers of high-quality HD Video programming, and an array of advanced cloud and managed IT services. Our solutions are customized to fit your business, your budget and your industry. We own, manage and maintain our network, which means we are 100% accountable; and we’re locally based, which allows us to be immediately responsive to our customers. Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Bright House Networks. Learn more.***
BEFORE WE DISCUSS “DEBATE NIGHT IN AMERICA,” TWO KEY PERSONNEL MOVES ANNOUNCED
ERIC EDWARDS WINS PLUM LOBBYING ROLE WITH U.S. SUGAR via Florida Politics – Edwards, the longtime Tallahassee-based legislative assistant to Republican state Sen. Don Gaetz, is joining U.S. Sugar Corporation’s in-house influence team … His title will be Assistant Vice President of Governmental Affairs. “We have wanted to strengthen and expand our internal government relations operation for some time, and we have patiently searched for just the right combination of experience, personality and potential,” said Robert Coker, Vice President of U.S. Sugar and its head lobbyist. “We hit the trifecta with Eric Edwards,” he added. “All of us on the U.S. Sugar government relations team are very excited about having Eric on board.” That’s not the only good news for Edwards: He also married Capital City Consulting lobbyist Jen Gaviria this past weekend. She will be leaving the firm to relocate with him to the company’s headquarters in Clewiston.
ASHLEY ROSS TO JOIN SENATE PRESIDENT’S OFFICE via Florida Politics – Ross will become a Deputy Chief of Staff … She also will be a Senior Policy Advisor to the president for commerce and tourism, military and veterans affairs, space and domestic security, community affairs and joint legislative committees. Ross, a member of the SaintPetersBlog “30 Under 30” Class of 2013, began her career in Gov. Jeb Bush‘s Legislative Affairs Office. She later served in several legislative affairs roles in the private sector, including with The PGA Tour of America. Ross also had senior positions at the Republican Party of Florida and the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.
— THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE –
When: 9 to 10:30 p.m. without commercial breaks.
Where: Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.
Format: Six timed segments of 15 minutes each on major topics.
Moderator: Lester Holt of NBC Nightly News
HILLARY CLINTON-DONALD TRUMP DEBATE EXPECTED TO BE RARE DRAW IN A POLARIZED AGE via Michael Grynbaum of The New York Times — The uniquely uncivil presidential campaign is about to produce one of the biggest civic gatherings in decades: For 90 minutes Monday night, a polarized nation will pause to watch the first head-to-head encounter between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump … The total audience, network executives and political strategists say, could be as high as 100 million viewers — Super Bowl territory. That would surpass the 80 million who watched Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in 1980, the record for a presidential debate, and rank among television benchmarks like the finales of MASH and Cheers.
CLINTON, TRUMP BUFF FOREIGN POLICY BONA FIDES ON DEBATE EVE via Laurie Kellman and Jill Colvin of The Associated Press – Clinton and Trump were meeting separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday, giving the each candidate fresh bragging rights about their knowledge of foreign policy and readiness to lead the nation on the eve of their first presidential debate. Trump and Netanyahu discussed “at length” Israel’s use of a fence to help secure its borders, an example Trump frequently cites when he’s talking about the wall he wants to build between the U.S. and Mexico. Clinton was expected to meet with the prime minister later in the day, also in New York. The meeting was designed to put Israel on good footing with the next U.S. president. But it also served to showcase the candidates’ expertise in foreign policy in the shadow of their first debate Monday, six weeks before Election Day. Clinton, a former senator and secretary of state, often says that Trump does not know enough about the world and lacks the temperament to be president. Trump has argued that he has extensive experience with foreign policy through his career as a business executive and blames Clinton for many of the nation’s stumbles in foreign policy. Meanwhile, the candidates deployed their top supporters to the Sunday shows to take early jabs at their opponents and lower expectations for a showdown expected to draw 75 million viewers — many of them disenchanted with both candidates, the least-popular presidential hopefuls in history. Facts and who will determine them during the 90-minute debate seemed to be a top concern of the campaigns’ strategists given Trump’s habit of saying things that are untrue and the public’s general distrust of Clinton.
DEBATES DON’T OFTEN CHANGE PRESIDENTIAL RACES. IS 2016 THE EXCEPTION? via Dan Balz of The Washington Post – Trump, an unguided missile, will be seeking to project a calmer demeanor and a command of the facts, enough at least to reassure voters who doubt his capacity to serve. Clinton, a studious and well-prepared debater whose expertise on many issues is deep, will be looking to avoid the weeds, offer a bigger and more affirmative vision and mostly try to prove that her rival is unfit to occupy the Oval Office.
— “What Al Gore’s first debate against George W. Bush can teach Hillary Clinton” via Patrick Healy of the New York Times
TWEET, TWEET: @NewtGingrich: Clinton is a fox who knows many things you can fact check. Trump is a hedgehog who knows one very big thing: We need change.
DEBATE COMMISSION CHIEF: CANDIDATES SHOULD FACT-CHECK EACH OTHER via Jill Disis and Brian Stelter of CNN – The Commission on Presidential Debates has some advice for debate moderators this fall: leave the fact-checking to the candidates. The Trump campaign is taking the same position. So are some former moderators, like Jim Lehrer, who has facilitated 12 presidential debates … But many others — including a wide array of journalists — want the man moderating Monday night’s debate, Lester Holt, to intervene if egregious lies are said onstage. As a result, fact-checking, normally a pretty staid subject, is now the focus of a roiling debate in political and journalistic circles. Clinton campaign aides are being outspoken about it: If moderators “close their ears to Donald Trump’s lies, it will extend an unfair bias to Donald Trump. It will be the equivalent of giving him more time to speak,” Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon said. But Janet Brown, executive director of the commission, which organizes the debates every four years, said on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” that “I don’t think it’s a good idea to get the moderator into essentially serving as the Encyclopedia Britannica.” Once the fact-checking door is open, “I’m not sure, what is the big fact, and what is a little fact?” She added, “Does your source about the unemployment rate agree with my source?” Trump campaign aides have staked out a similar position. Some of them say a pro-fact-checking stance is really an anti-Trump stance.
HOW LESTER HOLT PREPPED FOR HIS FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE via Brian Stelter of CNN – Holt has called on several NBC News colleagues as he prepares for Monday night. In recent days, his counselors have included NBC News and MSNBC chairman Andy Lack; NBC News president Deborah Turness; and the news division’s senior vice president of editorial, Janelle Rodriguez. Another key member of Holt’s debate team is Sam Singal, the executive producer of Holt’s “Nightly News.” “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd, senior political editor Mark Murray and political editor Carrie Dann have all helped as well. But familiar TV producers won’t be in his ear Monday night. He’ll only be hearing from the commission’s longtime executive producer, Marty Slutsky, who has produced all of the debates since 2000. Slutsky keeps track of time and lets moderators know when they have to wrap up the debate.
CLINTON AIDE PLAYING TRUMP IN MOCK DEBATES via Maggie Haberman and Patrick Healy of The New York Times – Philippe Reines, a longtime aide to Clinton and one of the most astute observers of her personal and political vulnerabilities, is playing Trump in her mock debate sessions … Reines, who was Clinton’s chief defender, enforcer, and gatekeeper during most of her years in the Senate and as secretary of state, is a deft practitioner of the combative, no-holds-barred politics that Trump favors. His selection as the Trump stand-in means that Clinton wants an opponent in her mock debates who knows her flaws and how to exploit them and who is fearless about getting under her skin the way that Trump might at their first debate … He is also known as one of a small handful of members of her inner circle willing to be tough and blunt with Clinton about her own missteps. Clinton, in her memoir “Hard Choices,” described Reines as “passionate, loyal and shrewd” and added, “I can always trust him to speak his mind.” Reines began playing the role of Trump soon after the party nominating conventions ended, according to a friend of his, who asked not to be identified in order to discuss an internal issue. “It’s perfect,” said Michael Feldman, a former aide to Al Gore who is also friends with Reines and was aware of Reines’ role. He said Mr. Reines had all the right qualities. “As people have been trying to guess, they’ve been identifying characteristics, all of which he has: He’s smart, he’s quick on his feet, and he knows how to, and is not afraid to try, to push her buttons,” Feldman said.
TRUMP CAMPAIGN NOW SAYS GENNIFER FLOWERS WILL NOT ATTEND THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE via Mahita Gajanan of Time Magazine –Just a day after the Trump seemingly invited her to attend, the candidate’s team said Sunday that the Republican nominee does not actually want Gennifer Flowers, the woman who allegedly had an affair with Bill Clinton, at the presidential debate … Trump Saturday threatened to bring Flowers to the debate in reaction to the Hillary Clinton campaign’s decision to invite Mark Cuban. Cuban, a billionaire reality TV star who has previously criticized Trump, will reportedly sit in the front row. Speaking on CNN Sunday morning, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said Flowers will not attend the debate as part of the Trump campaign. “We have not invited her formally, and we do not expect her to be there as a guest of the Trump campaign,” Conway told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
SOUTHERN STRATEGY GROUP HOSTS ‘FIGHT OF THE CENTURY’ DEBATE PARTY via Scott Powers for Orlando Rising – The party starts with ringside action and refreshments at 6 p.m. at The Abbey lounge in downtown Orlando, with the main event bell at 9 p.m. RSVPs are required by the end of Tuesday. The debate also is being sponsored by the Prismatic advertising and branding firm, Macbeth Studio photography and imaging, and The Abbey. “Our candidates are practicing their best combos and getting ready to go toe-to-toe ringside. We all may have different political ideologies or favorite prizefighters but this year — one thing that we can all agree on is we have never seen anything like this election cycle,” the lobbying and public relations firm declares. “So, don’t throw in the towel — this is your ticket to the gate where we can talk freely, where there will be no low blows (at least by our guests), and we can try to bet on who is going to take this round.”
— “How to spot a presidential debate game-changing moment” via Michelle Ubben of Sachs Media Group
AFTER DEBATE WITH CLINTON, TRUMP TO CAMPAIGN IN MELBOURNE ON TUESDAY via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – Trump is scheduled to appear at Orlando Melbourne International Airport’s AeroMod Hangar for a 7 p.m. event, with doors opening at 4 p.m. Tickets are available from Trump’s campaign website. “Do people notice Hillary is copying my airplane rallies – she puts the plane behind her like I have been doing from the beginning,” Trump tweeted last week.
GRASSROOTS ‘FLORIDIANS AGAINST TRUMP’ AIMS TO DEFEAT TRUMP IN FLORIDA – Activist Susannah Randolph is launching Floridians Against Trump, a new grassroots advocacy campaign aimed at defeating Trump in the Sunshine State. Floridians Against Trump plans to mobilize a broad coalition of voters against Trump ahead of the November election, using social media and grassroots events to engage them … the group will also work to inform voters about Trump’s abysmal record of bankrupting businesses and laying-off workers, while raking in record profits to make himself wealthy. “Donald Trump’s vision for America is dangerous,” Randolph said. “This is a man who has gotten rich at the expense of ordinary Americans. Trump has spent his career exploiting hardworking Americans, gutting our small businesses, and bankrupting companies. America’s middle class cannot afford a Trump Takeover of the Oval Office. That’s why we’re activating a grassroots army of Floridians to stop Trump from taking over our state and our country.”
TRUMP CAMPAIGN PLANS $140 MILLION AD BUY via Julie Bykowicz and Jill Colvin of The Associated Press – The total, if executed, would include $100 million in television airtime and $40 million in digital ads … The plan represents a new approach for the billionaire businessman, who has repeatedly bragged in recent weeks about how much less he’s spent than Clinton and seemed to rely heavily on free media coverage of his large rallies. Through this week, the Trump campaign has put only about $22 million into TV and radio ads for the general election, according to Kantar Media’s political advertising tracker. Clinton has spent more than five times as much on those kinds of ads, $124 million so far. Trump’s new ad buy will include 13 states, from key battlegrounds such as Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, to new targets of Maine, New Mexico and Wisconsin … About $40 million of the ads will play on national TV.
TWO FLORIDA JUDGES MAKE TRUMP’S SHORTLIST FOR U.S. SUPREME COURT via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canadyand Federico Moreno were among the top 10 contenders out of 21 individuals Trump said he would consider if he became president and had to pick a Supreme Court justice to fill the vacancy left by Antonin Scalia following his death earlier this year. Canady has served as a Supreme Court justice since 2008, when he was appointed to that position by former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Canady served as Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court from 2010-2012. He has also served as a judge of the Florida 2nd District Court of Appeals and was also a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993-2001. Canady also served as counsel for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and routinely makes up part of the conservative bloc of the Florida Supreme Court justices. He gained notoriety in the late 1990s as one of the prosecutors in President Bill Clinton’s 1999 Senate impeachment trial. Moreno serves as a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida which covers the southern portion of the state. He was nominated to this position by President Goerge H.W. Bush in 1990. Before serving as a judge for the Southern District of Florida, Moreno worked as an assistant federal public defender and worked as a judge on the Dade County Court.
POLICE: NAKED TRUMP STATUE STOLEN IN MIAMI via The Associated Press – Police in South Florida say they named a “person of interest” in the theft of a naked Trump statue. Miami police said on the department’s official Twitter account that the statue of the Republican presidential nominee was taken from the Wynwood arts district … WSVN and WPLG report security guards in Wynwood told police they saw a group of men loading the statue into a pickup truck. A witness told investigators he took a picture of the truck as it left the neighborhood. Police ran the license plate and are now looking for the registered owner of the truck as a “person of interest.” It is one of the life-size naked Trump statue that artist collective INDECLINE installed around the country in August.
CLINTON CAMPAIGN FOCUSES ON FLORIDA — It’s all hands on deck in the Sunshine State for the Clinton campaign. Vice presidential hopeful Tim Kaine is scheduled to hold a rally at 12:15 p.m. at The Lakeland Center, 701 W. Lime Street in Lakeland on Monday. From there, the Virginia Democrat will head to Orlando for a roundtable with Latino faith leaders at 4 p.m. at the Iglesia El Calvario, 2500 West Oak Ridge Road in Orlando. Kaine will spend the evening in Orlando, watching the first presidential debate. The LGBT debate watch party will be held in conjunction with the Human Rights Campaign. Doors open for the debate party at 6 p.m. at Church Street Station, 225 Garland Ave. in Orlando. Later this week, former President Bill Clinton will launch a “Stronger Together” bus tour throughout North Florida. The bus tour begins Friday and continues through Saturday, Oct. 1. Details of the trip weren’t immediately available, but the former president is expected to hold public events in Panama City, Tallahassee and Jacksonville, with additional stops along the way. President Clinton is expected to talk about Hillary Clinton’s plans to “build an economy that works for all, not just those at the top,” according to the campaign. Media interested in participating in the bus tour should RSVP here. Also on Friday, Hillary Clinton is scheduled to campaign in St. Lucie and Broward Counties.
CLINTON’S CHALLENGE WITH YOUNG VOTERS EASY TO FIND AT USF via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Clinton … has a problem with young voters. She has been unable to generate the excitement instilled by the man she wants to replace, President Barack Obama, or the man she defeated in the contentious Democratic primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders. Turning that around is vital for her campaign. The challenge was abundantly clear at the Marshall Student Center, where a lunchtime crowd did homework or socialized over plates from Papa John’s, Moes and Panda Express. A New York Times poll of Florida released this week showed young voters are considering a third-party candidate more than any other age group. Nationally a quarter of voters under age 40 indicated support for a third-party candidate. The poll revealed Clinton taking 51 percent of the vote among people age 18-29, well below the 66 percent Obama drew in 2012, which provided him with enough juice to win the state by 0.9 percent.
Clinton and Trump are headed toward another close election, which puts her youth problem on display. The campaign has campus organizers at USF and 12 other colleges across the state. It has encouraged early voting and placed ballot boxes on campus to spur vote by mail. Policy roundtables have been held, including a climate change panel in Miami and one on gender equity in Orlando. Yet enthusiasm in the candidate — and the election in general — still lags. “The apathy toward politics really gets under my skin sometimes because we have the potential to enact real change,” said Caitlin Croley, a Flagler College student who is vice president of Florida College Democrats. She has been a Clinton supporter from the start, but understands the appeal Sanders held. “Where Hillary Clinton takes a more baby steps approach, Bernie Sanders was going all the way. It was more exciting,” Croley said. She is hopeful students wake up in time and said a recent campus visit from Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan helped.
NEW CLINTON SPOT FOCUSES ON TRUMP’S COMMENTS AGAINST WOMEN via Florida Politics — The Clinton campaign has a question for voters: Is Trump the president they want for their daughters? That’s the question at the center of a new 30-second spots, called “Mirrors.” The new TV ad shows girls standing in front of the mirror as Trump’s comments about women plays in the background. The advertisement, according to the Clinton campaign, is meant to highlight Trump’s “hateful and offensive message he’s sending to girls across the country.” The ad will air in Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
NRSC TAKES ANOTHER SWING AT PATRICK MURPHY’S RESUME — The National Republican Senatorial Committee launched a new ad looking at Murphy’s work history. The 30-second spot — called “Audition” — references a CBS Miami investigation that raised questions about Murphy’s resume. “Patrick Murphy feels so entitled to Florida’s Senate seat he can’t be bothered to be honest about his professional experience prior to his career in politics,” said Greg Blair, a spokesman for the NRSC. “Here’s the truth: Murphy is an empty suit with a rich dad and has disqualified himself from office by repeatedly lying about his accomplishments.” The NRSC has released similar ads focused on Murphy’s resume, including on earlier this month which PolitiFact deemed “mostly false.” The new NRSC spot is part of a major ad buy in the Sunshine State and will run in Tampa and Orlando markets.
ANTI-POT GROUP SPENDS $1.3M AS MEDICAL MARIJUANA BOOSTERS KEEP FUNDRAISING via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – United for Care, the group behind the constitutional amendment, called Amendment 2, raised $20,000 last week, most of it from donations $1,000 or less. No on 2, the campaign opposing the measure, raised just $1, but they’ve started using major donations to produce and buy ads. Records show that Drug Free Florida, the political committee opposing medical marijuana, spent more than $1.3 million that same week, most of it going to Jamestown Associates, an ad buying firm. Here’s the dollars in and dollars out for the campaigns thus far: United for Care: Raised $4.01 million ($32,162 since Sept. 1); spent $3.89 million ($40,474 since Sept. 1) Drug Free Florida: Raised $2.86 million ($1.03 since Sept. 1); spent $1.79 million ($1.39 million since Sept. 1). John Morgan … has funded $2.7 million of the money United for Care has spent getting Amendment 2 on the ballot, though he hasn’t donated to the committee since Jan. 5. Conservative Tampa Bay developer Mel Sembler has this year spent $1 million and promised to donate or raise up to $10 million to fund Drug Free Florida. In early September, Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, dropped $1 million in campaign against Amendment 2.
CONSERVATIVE WATCHDOG GROUP FILES ETHICS COMPLAINT AGAINST STEPHANIE MURPHY IN CD 7 via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust has filed an ethics complaint against Murphy … for failing to file her personal financial disclosure statement in time for the deadline. The group filed the complaint with the U.S. House Committee on Ethics … requesting an investigation. Murphy, of Winter Park, declared her candidacy June 22. By house rules was to have her personal financial disclosure statement submitted within 30 days, according to the complaint. She finally filed the disclosure on Sept. 12, 82 days after filing to run. She is running against 12-term incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica of Winter Park. “We sincerely apologize for filing the disclosure forms late, but the forms were filed and late fee paid earlier this month, and the forms are fully available to the public for review,” her campaign manager Brad Howard said. “This is not simply a technical violation,” Matthew Whitaker, FACT executive director stated in a news release. “A candidate’s timely filing of a Financial Disclosure statement allows citizens to assess any conflicts of interest the candidate may have during her campaign for office, and ensures an ethical and transparent government.”
JEFF CLEMENS WINS SD 31 AFTER WRITE-IN WITHDRAWS via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Clemens will take the Senate District 31 seat after his write-in opponent left the race. Jason Swaby announced his withdraw, leaving Clemens free of general election opposition. As of this writing, 53 legislators have already secured their seats, with 20 more only facing write-in candidates in the general election.
THAD ALTMAN WINS HOUSE SEAT AFTER WRITE-IN WITHDRAWS via Caroline Glenn of Florida Today – Altman secured a seat in the House of Representatives after write-in opponent Edward Bollinger suddenly withdrew. Brevard County Supervisor of Elections Lori Scott confirmed that Bollinger no longer is a candidate for House District 52, after her office received notice of his withdrawal Wednesday morning. As a result, the race will not be included on the Nov. 8 ballot for the general election. Ballots for oversees Brevard military, which already were printed and scheduled to be mailed out Friday, will have to be reprinted. “I’m happy to be elected. It’s a great feeling,” Altman said on a voicemail regarding his win. “That sense of closure is always fantastic.”
FLORIDA PRIMARIES EYED: REPRESENTATION OF FEW, OR THE MANY? via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press – It took just 14,496 votes to win his closed Democratic primary for one of Florida’s 27 congressional seats. Now Darren Soto is virtually assured of going to Capitol Hill, unlikely to face a strong Republican challenge this November in his safely Democratic district … It’s a scenario repeated regularly in Florida’s state and congressional races in districts firmly controlled by one or the other of the two major parties. Now such outcomes are prompting calls to reform Florida’s primary system so more voters have a say in who represents them. “That’s a question that comes up often,” said Pamela Goodman, president of the Florida League of Women Voters. Her group is studying the primary system and will make recommendations next year to lawmakers on broadening the electoral process. Florida is one of only nine states with a strict closed primary system, which prevents independent and minor party voters from casting primary ballots.
Proponents say political parties should have the sole say in who they nominate, but critics say closed primaries exclude a large swath of voters, particularly as the number of independent voters grows. Until 16 years ago, Florida primaries weren’t even over until a candidate won a ballot majority. If no primary candidate received at least 50 percent plus one vote, the top two met in a runoff to decide who reached the general election. Only 11 states still have some form of a runoff primary, mostly in the Deep South. Louisiana, California and Washington state have all-inclusive primaries where the top two vote earners advance to the general election, 15 states have open primaries and nine states allow independent voters to choose which primary they’ll vote in.
WHAT THE TALLAHASSEE LOCALS ARE TALKING ABOUT — JACKIE PONS TV COMMERCIAL SPARKS FIERCE BACKLASH via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat – Superintendent Pons launched a TV attack ad against campaign rival Rocky Hannathat sparked immediate backlash on Facebook and Twitter and prompted some of the incumbent’s closest allies to walk away from his re-election campaign. The ad focuses on a 2013 paternity lawsuit brought but later dropped by the mother of Hanna’s teenage daughter. Both Hanna and the girl’s mother — not to mention numerous observers — blasted the commercial as unfit for a political campaign … Ron Sachs, CEO of Sachs Media Group and longtime Pons backer, announced he was withdrawing his support and would vote for Hanna instead. “This spot reflects such horrific judgment on his part,” Sachs said. “It smacks of desperation. I’m embarrassed for him and embarrassed for the community that we’ve been exposed to such a terrible piece of political propaganda. He most certainly and deservedly will lose the election over this one thing.” The commercial drew scorn from U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham … a former lawyer for the school district. Graham, a friend of Hanna’s since high school, gave $1,000 to Hanna’s campaign last year but was otherwise staying out of the race. She said … however, she could no longer maintain silence. “Attacking candidates’ families has absolutely no part in any political campaign,” she said. “Jackie owes Rocky, his family and the people of Leon County an unqualified apology.” Hanna, in an interview with the Tallahassee Democrat, blasted the commercial as “deplorable” … “I have a beautiful daughter and a wonderful relationship with both her and her mother,” Hanna said. “It’s shameful that Jackie Pons would attack my family and my 14-year-old daughter for his own personal political gain. Shame on him.” The 30-second TV spot says Hanna “brags he will care for our children like they’re his very own. We’re in trouble if Hanna treats our children like he did his.”
CDC: 3 MIAMI BUSINESSES EPICENTER OF FIRST U.S. ZIKA OUTBREAK via The Associated Press – The Zika outbreak in Miami’s Wynwood arts district centered on three businesses with outdoor areas shared by employees, customers and breeding mosquitoes, and the number of people infected was likely greater than reported … The outbreak – the first on the U.S. mainland – lingered for more than a month but was limited to a small geographic area, much like previous outbreaks of mosquito-borne viruses in Florida. Just over two weeks after aerial spraying of pesticides began in Wynwood, no further infections with Zika were reported in the neighborhood. While health officials stressed their campaign against the mosquitoes carrying the virus included ground-based spraying and turning over stagnant water, they said the aerial spraying appeared a key in halting the infections. “Aerial spraying was a driver, if not the driver, in this progress,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a conference call with reporters. A cluster of 29 cases were linked to three businesses in a six-block area with employees who worked or took breaks outside, near standing water and abundant mosquito breeding sites, according to the report primarily written by Florida’s state epidemiologist, Anna Likos, and other state health department staff.
A NEW FRONTIER FOR FLORIDA COURTS: TRANSGENDER NAME CHANGES via Sue Carlton of the Tampa Bay Times – In Florida, as long as it’s not for nefarious purposes like avoiding a bankruptcy or hiding a criminal record, you can change your name for pretty much any reason. Pay your fee ($414 in Hillsborough County, $395 in Pinellas), submit your paperwork, show up for your court date. You don’t even need a lawyer … Often, name change requests are about restoring former names after divorces or making sure the name someone has been using matches the one on his birth certificate. But at this moment in history — when even small- town America knows Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn and the president himself has weighed in on bathrooms in schools — judges are seeing more of another kind of name change on their dockets: Transgender people who want their names to reflect not the sex to which they were born, but the one with which they identify. Because the required forms don’t ask why someone wants a new name, it’s difficult to say how many gender-based requests are sprinkled amongst the hundreds that pass through local courtrooms each year. But on both sides of Tampa Bay, judges say the numbers are up … Some local judges handle gender-based name changes at the bench or move them to the end of the docket to avoid any reaction from the audience. A petitioner isn’t required to bring documents from a doctor specifying details of transitioning — counseling, hormone therapy, surgery — though judges say they often do. For the unfamiliar, transgender issues can be uncharted territory: terms like nonbinary, pangender and — instead of Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms. or a gender-neutral honorific used in Britain, Mx. (It’s unclear how wide usage could be here, though the term was added to Merriam-Webster Unabridged in April.) An August conference for Florida judges included a class on transgender matters in court. One question: How do they properly address someone standing in front of them asking for a name of a different gender? Miss or Mr.? He or she? “I don’t want to insult anyone,” says Hillsborough Circuit Judge Michael Scionti, elected to the bench in 2014.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Lawmakers, public safety advocates and rehabilitated former inmates will hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m. at the Bridges of America Orlando Transition Center, at 2001 Mercy Drive in Orlando. They will be protesting the closing of the center by the Florida Department of Corrections. Earlier this year, the FDOC tried to close similar centers in Broward and Bradenton and were met with public outcry. In the end they compromised, shutting down the center in Broward but allowing the residents to move to other, similar facilities elsewhere in the state. The Bradenton center, which serves female inmates, was able to stay open. In the Orlando center, there are currently 132 transitioning and community release inmates.
BIG WONKY READ — MEDICAID TRANSITION CAUSES HARDSHIP via Maggie Clark of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Crystal and Jon Ipe had five conversations with doctors about stopping life support for their son. There was the time his lungs collapsed while Crystal was changing his diaper. Born three months prematurely, Wyatt has struggled every day of his 22 months. The time when he was resuscitated more than once during an ambulance ride from Sarasota Memorial Hospital to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. The time one of his doctors said the boy was “circling the drain.” Yet the program that the Ipes expected would help continue his recovery is in turmoil. In an effort to cut costs and scale down the program for children with special health care needs, lawmakers and administrators at the Florida Department of Health have laid off hundreds of department employees and disqualified nearly 13,000 previously eligible children — about 20 percent of the program’s total enrollment barely a year ago. These children weren’t cured of their blindness, paralysis or inability to breathe on their own. Their care was outsourced to for-profit, publicly traded health insurance companies that make health care decisions with an eye toward the bottom line. The cost-conscious choices of lawmakers and lobbyists are forcing parents like Jon and Crystal to make gut-wrenching choices: whether to visit doctors they do not know or trust, to go without critical therapies and treatments or even institutionalize their children in nursing homes. As the state dismantles the program designed to protect children with complex health needs, kids like Wyatt have been tossed into the overall Medicaid system just like anyone without such complex needs. But Wyatt is not like other children. He can’t breathe on his own and he relies on a feeding tube to eat and drink. For him, a missed appointment or a lapsed prescription could mean the difference between life and death.
RENE GARCIA ACCUSES AHCA OF OVERSTEPPING ITS AUTHORITY via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. René García … sent interim AHCA Secretary Justin Senior a letter … regarding the Medicaid outpatient hospital rates. He said the rates – already in effect – are nearly $133 million lower than what the Florida Legislature authorized and included in the 2016-17 fiscal year budget. “This action usurps legislative appropriation authority,” wrote García. More than 100 hospitals had sent letters to AHCA by July 29 advising the state of their intent to challenge the rates – and the formula used to develop the rates – that were published July 8. The initial rates would have reduced outpatient reimbursement by $250 million. AHCA subsequently altered the rates, but hospitals say the reductions are about $133 million more than authorized. In addition to impacting the hospitals, the rates also impact how much the states pay Medicaid HMOs to care for the poor, elderly and the disabled. AHCA has proposed an average 7.5 percent increase in reimbursement for the Medicaid HMOs and managed care plans this year. The hospitals are expected to officially challenge the rates in the Division of Administrative Hearings next week.
JACK LATVALA: WATER QUALITY IS A BUSINESS ISSUE via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Latvala said all of the state’s stakeholders need to work together to address the issues affecting Florida’s water. “It’s not just (environmentalists). It’s not just the white hats with petitions and protests,” said Latvala, a Clearwater Republican and the incoming chairman of the Senate appropriations committee. “These are business issues. If we allow those (resources) to be desecrated in any way … that’s not going to help keep people coming to Florida, whether it’s as tourists or whether it’s as residents. Everyone needs to be invested.” Latvala gave the business community and environmental experts a peek into the 2017-18 budget process during the 2016 Florida Water Forum with hosted by Associated Industries of Florida. The annual event is a chance for elected officials, the business community and other policy leaders to come together to discuss ongoing water issues. The most recent estimates from leave Florida with about $7.5 million leftover out of about $32.2 billion in available revenue in 2017-18. And while lawmakers have stressed there isn’t’ a revenue shortage, recent estimates don’t leave a lot of wiggle room for those hoping to get projects funded. But Latvala said he expects lawmakers will advocate for projects to improve Florida’s water quality. And Senate President Designate Joe Negron has already said water will be a top priority during his two-year term. But water quality issues in the Indian River Lagoon — where algae clogged the waterways and temporarily close South Florida beaches — aren’t the only concerns. He pointed to a recent sewage spill in Tampa Bay, where more than 250 million gallons of sewage flowed into the bay. “I can’t think of a time in history since I’ve been involved in the Senate that we’ve had so many crisis effecting water as we have today,” he said.
BOARD OF EDUCATION BACKS ‘AMBITIOUS’ ACADEMIC GOALS IN STRATEGIC PLAN UPDATE via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – During a nearly two-hourlong discussion … Florida Board of Education members voiced strong support for what they called “ambitious” academic goals for the state’s schools. They generally applauded the proposed strategic plan updates, which call for six to seven percentage point increases in student performance on state tests. “It’s a pretty big audacious objective,” chairwoman Marva Johnson said, after asking staff whether the goals were reachable given changes to state standards and testing. “Even at 7 percent, this is a big goal [given] how we’re achieving student achievement is more rigorous than it was.” Vice chairman John Padget suggested that the state might aim even higher for science and math test results, given the board’s desire to focus on STEM lessons. Lyons said that it’s “quite clear” when the state raises expectations and shares those with students, “They don’t ever let us down.” The board approved the plan without any discussion about eliminating subgroup goals, and instead targeting achievement gap reductions of one-third by 2019-20. Mark Halpert of the Learning Disabilities Association of Florida, who supported the separated objectives, said he was disappointed.
BALONEY, REASON REPORT: FLORIDA’S HIGHWAYS ARE A SOURCE OF PRIDE via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – I knew it the minute I read it. The Reason Foundation’s report on the state of the nation’s roads is dead wrong. Based on pavement condition, traffic congestion, deficient bridges, traffic fatality rates and spending per-mile, the nonprofit Libertarian think tank ranks Florida’s highways 32nd in the nation. Thirty-second? Ridiculous. No way on God’s green earth. Please believe this: I’m nothing, if not well-traveled. I’ve driven in 48 of the nation’s 50 states, most of them extenively. And I can tell you, every single time –after every one of those trips — it’s a joy and a relief to drive back over the Florida line, onto roads I know aren’t going to blow one of my tires, knock my wheels out of alignment or send me off on a dirt-road detour where I can spend an hour getting tossed around like a pea in a tin can. I’ve said “thank you, Florida” more than once. So, Thursday — in spite of Reason Foundation’s considerable bona fides — I read its 22nd annual highway report, as I did its 21st, with more than a little skepticism. Reason claims the state’s overall ranking has worsened, it was 31st in the previous report … listen to this: The U.S. Chamber Foundation has ranked Florida the No. 1 state in the nation for infrastructure. Is anybody surprised? A Washington Post columnist (Reid Wilson) wrote that Florida has the best roads and bridges in the country: “… One state stands out: Florida ranks near the top in nearly every measure of road transportation.” … Florida has among the lowest percentage of structurally deficient bridges nationally, which translates into fewer weight-restricted postings and a high performing transportation network. Every year, the independent Florida Transportation Commission conducts a performance and production review of the department. Last year, the commission found the department met or exceeded the objectives of 16 of the 17 primary measures for Fiscal 2014/15.
FLORIDA CHAMBER FOUNDATION, VOLUNTEER FLORIDA TO HOST #BRINGABOOK INITIATIVE DURING FUTURE OF FLORIDA FORUM — Heading to the Florida Chamber’s annual Future of Florida forum? Don’t forget to #BringABook. Volunteer Florida and the Florida Chamber Foundation are teaming up to once again host the #BringABook service initiative during the annual forum. The two organizations are asking business and elected leaders to bring a new or gently-used elementary school books to the forum. The organizations will collect books near the registration area at the Future of Florida forum on Wednesday and Thursday. The groups have chosen City Year Orlando, which deploys more than 60 AmeriCorps members to mentor and tutor students at seven Orlando schools, as the recipient. The Future of Florida Forum is scheduled for Sept. 28 and Sept. 30 at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando.
CHESTER SPELLMAN NAMED CHAIR OF AMERICA’S SERVICE COMMISSION via Florida Politics — Spellman, the CEO of Volunteer Florida, was elected as the chairman of the national, nonprofits organization during its annual membership assembly. The American Association of State Service Commissions is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that represents and promotes state service commissions across the nation. The Jacksonville native previously served as the organization’s second vice chairman and chairman of resource development. “It is an honor to be selected by my state service commission colleagues to serve as chair,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to working at the local, state and federal level to advance the impact of service commissions nationwide.”
HAPPENING TOMORROW – Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, son of former Gov. Jeb Bush, holds a $500-per-person Jacksonville fundraiser hosted by Husein and Leanna Cumber, Marty Fiorentino, Ambassador John Rood and Peter Rummell. Event begins noon at The River Club, 11 Independent Dr., #3500 in Jacksonville. RSVP with Ann Herberger at 305-772-4311 or firstname.lastname@example.org
SALLY BRADSHAW OFFERS GLIMMER OF HOPE FOR BOOK LOVERS via Bob Holladay of the Tallahassee Democrat – Somewhere in every conversation about Bradshaw, the person to whom you are talking will use two words: “organized” and “driven.” They are traits which are indispensable for the two callings she has chosen for herself: politics, and now business. You have to have both of them to succeed, but even if you do they are not enough: timing is indispensable, too; so is luck; so is being able to deal with the unexpected. For more than 30 years she has been involved in the political process, but what she is trying to do in establishing the only locally owned new bookstore in the state capital of the third largest state in the nation, may be more important. Sitting and talking with her amid the dust and planking of the unfinished Midtown Reader at 1123 Thomasville Road, which will open Nov. 12, it suddenly becomes obvious that what she is doing has touches of both a political campaign and an act of faith. “One of the things you learn, when you are a novice bookseller, or anything else for that matter,” Bradshaw says, “is how little you know. The other thing you learn is that everybody has a dream, sometime in their life, of working in a bookstore, and they want to tell you about how they would do it.” She has spent a good part of the last six months traveling the country, visiting independent bookstores, finding out what has worked and what hasn’t worked. Last week she attended the Southeastern Independent Booksellers convention in Savannah; the week before that she visited Parnassus Books in Nashville, started by author Anne Patchett after Tennessee’s capital city lost its only independent bookstore. She has consulted the American Booksellers Association, and has become friends with other booksellers in the area … “I have gotten some rather consistent advice on this,” she says. “One is lower your overhead. Do not pay rent if you can help it.”
CONGRATULATIONS to Lindsey Perkins Zander and Skylar Zander on their beautiful Tallahassee wedding.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to my dear friend, Christina Johnson, who continues to amaze with all of her work, including the recent launch of Tallahassee 100. More belated wishes to Uber’s Javi Correoso, Travis Mitchell, Tara Reid and our friend Nancy Riley. Celebrating today is Brittany Davis Wise, Cynthia Henderson, Clay Ingram‘s better half Leslie, and Tanya Jackson.
MIAMI MARLINS ACE JOSE FERNANDEZ DIES IN BOATING ACCIDENT via Tim Reynolds and Steven Wine of The Associated Press – Fernandez escaped from Cuba by boat on his fourth try as a teenager, and when his mother fell into the Yucatan Channel during the journey, he jumped in and pulled her out. Fernandez’s heroic backstory made his death early Sunday that much more heart-wrenching. The charismatic Miami Marlins ace was killed in a boating accident at age 24. Fernandez and two other people died when their 32-foot vessel slammed into a jetty off Miami Beach, authorities said. Authorities didn’t know the time of the crash. The capsized boat was found shortly after 3 a.m. “All I can do is scream in disbelief,” said Hall of Famer Tony Perez, a Marlins executive and native of Cuba. “Jose won the love of all. I feel as if I had lost a son.” Major League Baseball released a statement saying it was “stunned and devastated” … “He was one of our game’s great young stars who made a dramatic impact on and off the field since his debut in 2013,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, the Miami Marlins organization and all of the people he touched in his life.” The Marlins’ game Sunday at home against the Atlanta Braves was canceled. The Braves, along with several other teams, quickly offered condolences.
— “Florida lawmaker, Matt Gaetz, unleashes firestorm with politicized tweet about Jose Fernandez” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics