Sunburn for 9/10 – 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: Florida’s roadways are a bit safer thanks to an event that took place an ocean away on this date 117 years ago. On September 10, 1897, London cabbie George Smith had the dubious “honor” of becoming history’s first person arrested for drunk driving. Thirteen years later, New York became the first U.S. state to prohibit driving while intoxicated. Despite Florida laws, more than 50,300 motorists in the state were arrested for DUI last year. Next time, they should let a friend do the driving.

Now, on to the ‘burn…


A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that only 43 percent of Americans say President Obama is a strong leader, the lowest reading since he entered the White House. Just over half the country says his presidency has been a failure, although partisanship colors that judgment.

His overall foreign policy ratings are his lowest yet in a Post-ABC News poll. A majority says the president is too cautious when it comes to international problems and specifically in dealing with Islamic State militants. His handling of Russian aggression in Ukraine receives somewhat better marks, but more than 4 in 10 still say he is too cautious.

NATIONAL OUTLOOK via Stu Rothenberg

“I am now expecting a substantial Republican Senate wave in November, with a net gain of at least seven seats. But I wouldn’t be shocked by a larger gain. … Of the seven Romney Democratic seats up this cycle, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia are gone, and Arkansas and Louisiana look difficult to hold. Alaska and North Carolina, on the other hand, remain very competitive, and Democrats rightly point out that they have a chance to hold both seats.”

OUTLOOK PART DEUX via Charlie Cook

 “The Democrats whom I have talked and emailed with in recent weeks seem increasingly resigned to an ugly midterm election. Of course, it’s not likely to be the wipeout that 2010 was–after all, in the House, the best news for Democrats is that you can’t lose seats you don’t have. After losing 63 seats in 2010 and getting only eight back in 2012, Democrats don’t have that many more they can lose.”

“While the contest for the majority in the Senate has many facets, none is more important than whether Democrats can hold onto any of their six most vulnerable seats: those that are up in states that Mitt Romney carried in 2012. Three of them–the open seats in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia–look pretty hopeless for Democrats. The remaining three incumbents–Mark Begich in Alaska, where Romney won by 14 points; Mark Pryor in Arkansas, which Romney carried by 24 points; and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, where Romney won by 17 points–all look increasingly problematic for Democrats… If Democrats get wiped out in red states, that could be the whole ball game when it comes to Senate control.”

2016 WATCH via Public Policy Polling

Hillary Clinton leads the entire GOP field for President in Florida, although a match up with Jeb Bush would be very close with Clinton holding only a 46/44 advantage.

She leads by at least 7 points over the rest of the GOP field — it’s 49/42 over Marco Rubio, 46/38 over Chris Christie, 48/40 over Rand Paul, 49/40 over Mike Huckabee, and 51/36 over Ted Cruz.

There is not much enthusiasm from Floridians about the prospect of either of their home state candidates running for President — just 32 percent want Rubio and 31 percent want Bush to run with 53 percent opposed to each of them making a bid.

2018 WATCH (YES, 2018 WATCH) 
Rubio would start out in better position for re-election than the White House, although he’s likely headed to a much more competitive contest than he had in 2010. Rubio would lead Debbie Wasserman Schultz 47/43 and Patrick Murphy 46/41 in hypothetical contests. Those numbers pretty closely mirror his divided approval numbers — 44 percent of voters approve of the job he’s doing to 41 percent who disapprove.


Public Policy Polling’s newest Florida poll continues to find a tight race for governor, with Charlie Crist holding a slight advantage over Rick Scott. Crist is at 42 percent to 39 percent for Scott, and 8 percent for Libertarian Adrian Wyllie.

This election is shaping up as a choice between two candidates voters have decided they don’t care for. Only 40 percent of voters approve of the job Scott is doing to 49 percent who disapprove. But they don’t like Crist either — 40 percent of voters rate him favorably with 46 percent holding a negative opinion.

The dissatisfaction with both major candidates probably helps to explain Wyllie’s 8 percent standing but since he is drawing pretty equally from both Scott and Crist he’s not having a major effect on the race in the way some Libertarians are in other states.

When you take him out of the equation Crist’s lead remains 3 points at 44/41.


In case there was any doubt as to how close Florida’s governor’s race truly is, consider this …

If you average the last five public polls: Crist +2 (Survey USA), Scott +1 (Survey USA), Scott +5 (Tampa Bay Times), Scott +2 (Mason/Dixon), and Crist +3 (PPP), that gives Scott a lead of just 0.6 percent — not close enough for a recount, but still damn close.

Historically, as Jason Roth and Steve Schale discussed on Twitter today, the last three top of the ticket margins in Florida have been plus 3, plus 1, and plus 1. Of the more than 41 million votes cast from 1992 to 2012 for the top of the ticket, the OVERALL margin between winner and loser is approximately 130,000 or just 0.3 percent.

As much as you might hear of internal or private polls showing Scott up outside of the margin of error, that just doesn’t jibe with what the law of averages and the historical perspective tell us. And that is this race is and will be very close.

BIG EDUCATION WEIGHS IN BIG-TIME FOR CRIST via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

Crist left the primary gate boosted by a $1.5 million cash haul in late August as the National Education Association and the Democratic Governor’s Association each gave his “Charlie Crist for Florida” committee hefty checks for $500,000.

By contrast, Gov. Scott’s political campaign, Let’s Get to Work, scored only $127,410 for the week ending Aug. 29 as the conservative billionaire Koch brothers wrote the committee the largest check of the period — $25,000, according to reports filed at the Florida Division of Elections.

But Scott’s contributions to his political campaign during that period outpaced Crist’s as the governor raised $709,178 to Crist’s $272,682.

That brings the totals for both candidates – both political committees and campaigns – to $43.3 million for Scott and $28.6 million for Crist. Scott has spent proportionately more than Crist, however — $28.3 million to Crist’s $11.6 million – as the Republican has loaded the airwaves with a barrage of heavy-hitting attack ads, forcing Crist to attack back.

The cash-on-hand numbers at this point, however, is where they are more evenly matched. Scott has $15 million in the bank and Crist has $11.6 million.

But the check from most powerful teacher’s union in the nation is a signal that the teachers groups are still targeting Scott. The money came a week before a visit to Florida from Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the newly elected head of the organization in which she proclaimed that they were prepared to help Crist in their quest to “get rid of toxic testing.” Her 12-hour tour started in the Keys and continued with visits to Allapattah Middle School and Hialeah High School in Miami-Dade County. Crist and Florida Education Association officials were at her side.


Although nobody would accuse Crist of being a paragon of consistency when it comes to the issue of abortion, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee is now very pro-choice as he tries to rally his new base in his bid to oust Gov. Scott.

So when the Crist campaign opted to talk about their new ad attacking Scott for his record on abortion rights, they trotted out his running mate, Annette Taddeo, as well as Florida Planned Parenthood PAC Treasurer Barbara Zdravecky, to talk about it with reporters on a conference call.

In the ad, Scott gets dinged for his record on women’s issues — from requiring mandatory ultrasounds to opposing Roe v. Wade to refusing to support new laws to ensure equal pay.

“We need a governor who will protect Roe Vs. Wade in our state and that candidate is Charlie Crist,” said Taddeo. “It’s wrong to overturn Roe Vs. Wade and restrict women’s access to contraception.”

The next governor of Florida will be naming at least one new member to the state’s Supreme Court, and could possibly add three more. That’s because Justices James C. Perry, Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince will all turn 70 at some time during the next governor’s term, with Perry scheduled to retire in 2017 and the six-year terms of the other three ending on the same day the new governor is sworn in.

Both women referred to Crist’s veto of a bill mandating that a woman get an ultrasound before she has an abortion — one Rick Scott later signed into law — as an indication of the gulf between the two men when it comes to abortion rights. Zdravecky lit into Scott for a number of other policies that the governor has adopted.

When asked about Crist’s well-known record of being against abortion rights before he was for them, Annette Taddeo stood by her running mate.


As soon as the primary finished, every outlet from Progressive Choice went silent.  This group, who claimed to care about the such issues as marriage equality in Florida, medical marijuana, LGBT rights, women’s health care issues, and other traditional progressive issues, fell dead silent. The blog Progressive Choice ’14 went silent. Their Twitter, Facebook, and website have been quiet since the primary and even the national group has had just two tweets since Aug 26. It seems that the entire organization does not intend to be active in one of the most important mid-term election in recent history.

There is just no reasonable answer to give the group any credibility. This secretive group came forward and decided that attacking Gov. Crist was the most important progressive cause in the county and when he prevailed in the primary, they just quit and gave up. There is simply no logical explanation other than this was a Republican front group formed merely to attack Charlie Crist. While the financial backers will probably always be unknown, the obviousness of the quick silence after the primary speaks volumes. We may never find concrete evidence linking Progressive Choice to the Republicans or Rick Scott’s special interest backers, but no proof exists that they were truly linked with “progressive” causes within Florida.


Republicans have decent leads in Florida’s down-ballot races, although they’re not likely to receive the same sorts of overwhelming margins they enjoyed in 2010.

Adam Putnam leads Thad Hamilton 42/37 for Commissioner of Agriculture, Pam Bondi is up 43/35 on George Sheldon for Attorney General with Libertarian Bill Wohlsifer at 6 percent, and Jeff Atwater is up 46/34 on Will Rankin for Chief Financial Officer.

AMENDMENT 2 AT JUST 61 PERCENT Poll results here

Florida’s medical marijuana amendment is still receiving more than the 60 percent it needs to become law, but opposition to it has risen in recent months.

61% of voters say they support it to 33% who are opposed. That’s down from a 66/25 spread in favor of passage in June and a 65/23 spread in favor in January.


Morgan is scheduled to speak to Alachua County Democrats. Alachua County Health Department community room, 224 S.E. 24th St., Gainesville. 7 p.m.

LAWYER POLL: KEEP APPELLATE JUDGES via Frank Fernandez of the Daytona Beach News-Journal

The state’s incumbent appellate judges, including seven from the 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach, should be retained in the coming election, according to lawyers who responded to a poll by The Florida Bar.

The Florida Bar’s confidential poll indicated strong support with an average ranking of 88 percent for the judges, according to a press release from The Bar. Voters will choose during the Nov. 4 general election whether the appellate judges should be retained.

The attorneys recommended the retention of 5th DCA appellate judges Wendy W. Berger by 82 percent, Kerry I. Evander by 90 percent, Charles Alan Lawson by 90 percent, Richard B. Orfinger by 92 percent, William David Palmer by 88 percent, Thomas D. Sawaya by 92 percent and F. Rand Wallis by 86 percent. The 5th DCA has 10 full-time judges.

The Bar sent out 70,467 ballots to member attorneys in good standing and 5,206 lawyers participated. That means 7.4 percent of attorneys receiving the ballots participated.

The bar included only responses from attorneys indicating considerable or limited knowledge.

Appellate judges receiving a majority of votes in the general election win another six-year term. If voters do not retain a judge, then the Judicial Nominating Commission would take applications and recommend three to six nominees to the governor, who would then appoint a replacement.


>>> Florida’s leading small-business association, National Federation of Independent Business, announced several Florida House endorsements, including GOP hopeful Chris Latvala for House District 67. “Chris’ political and small business experience has proven that he is committed to Florida’s economic growth and helping our state’s job creators,” said NFIB/Florida Executive Director Bill Herrle, “which makes him the best candidate to represent our members in House District 67.” HD 67 includes northeast Pinellas County including most of Clearwater and Largo

>>> NFIB/Florida also gave the nod to Republican Party of Florida vice chair Blaise Ingoglia for Hernando County’s House District 35. “Blaise has created numerous successful small businesses and has a history of fighting government overreach and excessive government spending,” Herrle said. “Blaise’s priorities align with those of the small-business community, and his dedication to making Florida an even better place to own, operate and grow a small business make him the best candidate in House District 35.”

>>> NFIB/Florida also endorsed former state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff in her bid to reclaim Senate District 34, covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. “Ellyn is a proven supporter of the small business community, which makes her the best candidate in District 34 to represent our members’ interests,” Herrle said.

>>> NFIB/Florida is supporting former state Rep. Scott Plakon for his House District 29 bid. “Scott, an NFIB member himself, has owned and operated a small business for more than two decades and understands the challenges facing our state’s entrepreneurs,” Herrle said. “During his time in the Legislature, Scott was committed to small business issues and improving the economy, and we look forward to working with him again to continue to make Florida the most business-friendly state in the country.” HD 29 covers much of Seminole County, Lake Mary, Longwood and parts of Sanford.

>>> The Florida Medical Association PAC (FMA PAC), endorsed State Rep. Debbie Mayfield in her re-election bid for Florida House District 54. “We appreciate her dedication to our core issues and look forward to her continued leadership and dedication in the Florida House,” said FMA PAC President Ralph Nobo. HD 54 includes Indian River and part of St. Lucie County.

>>> International Association of Fire Fighters Local 754 is throwing its support behind Democratic state Rep. Mark Danish for re-election to House District 63. Local 754 Secretary-Treasurer Jace Kohan said in an announcement that Danish’s “background in education and dedication to public safety make him an invaluable asset to the Florida House. He has been a proven supporter of the Florida Retirement System and we look forward to sending him back to Tallahassee.” HD 63 covers parts of north Hillsborough County.

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The Department of Health has issued a revised rule for the implementation of the state’s medicinal marijuana law. The revised draft of regulations keeps a lottery in place for the awarding of five licenses to cultivate, process and dispense a cannabis extract.

The department’s revision comes after a day-long public hearing and a 19-page letter seeking clarification of provisions in a proposed rule by a legislative committee that must certify the department has responded to questions and did not exceed its authority in developing the regulations.

The major revision in the new rule is clarification of a 25-percent ownership provision for a qualified applicant. The department will consider applications from an organization that includes 25 percent ownership by a qualified nursery or 100 percent of the owners of a nursery that meets the requirements.

The previous draft had defined an applicant as “an entity with at least 25% ownership by a nursery.” Stakeholders had complained that the department lacked the authority to do so.

The notice of change for the proposed rules sets the timetable back another 21 days before the rule may be adopted. The department must notify the Joint Procedure and Administrative Committee of the change. JPAC must then certify that the department has responded to all comments and inquiries before the department can adopt the rule. Once it is adopted, DOH will submit the rule to the Department of State and it will become effective 20 days later.

Once it is effective, applicants will have 15 days to submit an application for one of the five licenses. If there are no further challenges, the application period will close on Nov. 4.


A coalition of plaintiffs has formally asked that the Florida Supreme Court to take up a long running redistricting case.

Leon Circuit Judge Terry Lewis initially ruled congressional maps drawn as part of the 2012 redistricting process were unconstitutional. In August, he approved new maps drawn by lawmakers during a special session called after Lewis’ initial ruling.

The coalition was also asking that Lewis call special elections so the two unconstitutional seats could be redrawn before the 2014 midterms, a request he did not grant.

The new maps remain unconstitutional, according to the coalition of plaintiffs led by the League of Women Voters of Florida. In an appeal filed Aug. 29, they said they would also be asking that the appeal be certified directly to the Supreme Court, a request that was officially filed Tuesday.

“Although it is now too late to impact the 2014 congressional elections, which are currently under way to elect representatives to districts the trial court found…unconstitutional, this appeal still requires immediate resolution,” read the nine-page filing.


Four candidates are moving ahead in the search for a new president at Florida State University.

A FSU search committee on Tuesday voted to choose powerful politician John Thrasher as one of the candidates.

The other candidates include West Virginia University Provost Michele Wheatly, Michael Martin, chancellor of the Colorado State University System and Richard Marchase, a vice president at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The committee debated, but ultimately decided against including FSU interim president Garnett Stokes on the list.

The search committee interviewed 11 candidates over the last two days before taking the vote.

FSU has been without a president since Eric Barron stepped down to take the top post at Penn State University.


The Money Course had all the right backers last session, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, CFO Jeff Atwater, and editorial boards. Despite her support, Rep. Marlene O’Toole allowed the Money Course, a key financial literacy bill, to die – and with it, the financial competence of Florida high school students.

But it’s back, courtesy of Port Orange Sen. Dorothy Hukill.

That should please parents, teachers, and students – not to mention primary bill backers the Florida Council on Economic Education.

The bill, yet to be numbered, says: Florida High School students will be required to take a personal financial literacy course as a half-credit core requirement, full-semester course; the curriculum will include instruction on money management, spending and credit, insurance, taxes and income.

The Florida Department of Education recently cleared the Money Course as inexpensive, according to the Associated Press.


For Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes, noted woodshed owner, the age-old maxim endures:

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

That’s why Brandes is returning to the successful campaign refrain used since his first foray into politics in 2010 for the Florida House.

The St. Petersburg Republican’s newest 30-second spot, called “Jeff Brandes, Woodshed Owner” takes place in a workshop, with the candidate discussing his family history and work as a business owner, job creator and Army combat veteran.

His military and business experience is what Brandes will take to Tallahassee, so he can “hold them accountable for what they say and they do.”

“And when they don’t,” he adds, “I’ll be taking them to the woodshed.”

The ad echoes, both in style and setting, from his first spot in August 2010, where Brandes also reminisces about his grandfather “building the American Dream” and taking Tallahassee “to the woodshed.”


Rep. Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican who is in line to become House speaker after the November elections, is expected to speak during an Associated Industries of Florida conference. JW Marriott Grande Lakes-Orlando, 4040 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando. 9 a.m.


The Joint Legislative Budget Commission, which includes members of the House and Senate, will take up issues involving various agencies and also will receive a presentation about a draft report on the state’s long-range financial outlook. 412 Knott Building, the Capitol. 1:30 p.m.


Jonathan Kilman, Foley & Lardner: Caregiver Services

SPOTTED: Jimmy Buffett lunching at The Governors Club with lobbyists Jeff Sharkey and Taylor Biehl.

PRESS RELEASE OF THE DAY: “Commissioner Putnam Announces Successes of Giant African Land Snail Eradication Program, Urges Miami-Dade Residents to Be Vigilant”

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U.S. News & World Report is out with its latest ranking of the nation’s colleges and universities. It’s a controversial measure — college administrators like to joke that they don’t pay any attention to the list unless they like where they land — but it’s something that carries weight in the competition for students.

As Florida State University continues in its search for a new president, several people have noted that the news isn’t good this year. FSU’s goal is to move up into the top 25 of public universities, but instead the school slipped from No. 40 to No. 43.

Its rival, the University of Florida, is ranked No. 14 among public universities for the second year in a row. That institution wants to move into the Top 10.

Both schools have received extra funding from the state Legislature to help achieve those goals. All of the candidates for FSU president have been asked during their interviews to discuss what they would do to help the school achieve its goal of joining the top 25.

Compared to all universities, public and private, UF is No. 48 and FSU is No. 95. The top ranked public university is University of California-Berkley, No. 20 overall. Ranking No. 1 out of all universities is Princeton.


Not long ago, Pumpkin-flavored beer was a niche novelty; now it’s a full-blown fall season staple.

Sales of pumpkin-flavored beers have grown by more than 1,500 percent in the past 10 years, according to estimates by market research Nielsen. Last year, Americans spent more than $15 million on pumpkin-flavored beers.

While fall flavorings in general, including apple, Oktoberfest and other spiced offerings, have seen consistent upticks in demand each year, no variety is growing quite like pumpkin. Pumpkin beers now account for nearly two-thirds of all fall beer sales, according to Nielsen.

America’s favorite pumpkin beer is still America’s first pumpkin beer: Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale, which launched in 1995 and still accounts for roughly 65 percent of all pumpkin beer retail sales.

Much of the industry’s initial growth was tied to the large-scale launch of Blue Moon’s offering. “Due mostly to Blue Moon’s introduction into the pumpkin flavored segment, pumpkin flavored beer sales grew 389% from 1995 to 1996,” Riberi said. But part of the reason pumpkin-flavored beers are making their way into more and more shopping carts (and refrigerators and ice buckets) around the country today is that there are simply more and more of them being offered each year.

The number of branded pumpkin beers has grown from just two in 2000 to 65 last year, per estimates by Nielsen.


On Context Florida: In an unofficial follow-up poll in Florida’s 2014 Rick Scott-Charlie Crist race, Daniel Tilson spoke with Bobby, his sometimes auto mechanic. In 2010, Bobby – a middle-class white Democrat – said he was backing then-unknown millionaire businessman Rick Scott. This time, Bobby is undecided, but still leaning a little to the right. Stephen Goldstein believes that the United States has devolved into a de facto theocracy. Campaigns begin long before Labor Day each year, but Bob Sparks points out the attention span of millions of voters prior to September is short. Last week’s Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/UF Bob Graham Center poll on Amendment 2, which would legalize medical marijuana, indicates that only 56.7 percent of likely voters are supporting the amendment. This is good news for Barney Bishop and others who oppose the amendment, but much can change.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of our 30-under-30 rising stars, Katie Ballard.

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.