Sunburn for 9/29 – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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Sunburn — The 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: Thirty-two months after the tragic Challenger disaster in the early moments of its launch, America got back into space on this date in 1988 with the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. The five-man crew of the historic “Return to Flight” mission, piloted by Fort Walton Beach’s Rick Covey, traveled 1.7 million miles on their four-day mission ending with a successful landing in California. America’s “new frontier” space program still inspires awe among all generations – and Florida’s role remains essential.

Now, on to the ‘burn…

CONFUSED BY ISSUES OF THE DAY? JOIN THE CLUB via Connie Cass of the Associated Press

Most people in the United States say the issues facing the country are getting harder to fathom.

It’s not just those tuning out politics who feel perplexed.

People who vote regularly, follow news about November’s election or simply feel a civic duty to stay informed are most likely to say that issues have become “much more complicated” over the past decade, an Associated Press-GfK poll shows.

At one time people would only see a news story about a violent organization such as the Islamic State group, he said, but now they watch the militants’ videos of beheadings online.

Nearly three-fourths of Americans find the health care overhaul difficult, according to the AP-GfK poll, and about 4 in 10 say it’s very hard to understand.

The law is complex; politicians even say so.

Republicans were condemning it as a regulatory morass even before it passed. When the federal website enrolling people crashed last year, Obama himself pointed to the enormous size of the undertaking. “It’s complicated,” he said. “It’s hard.”

Politicians do try to make issues sound simpler. They like to invoke your own family budget when talking about the national debt.

But in the poll, confidence in dealing with household problems didn’t offer much help in understanding national matters.


TWEET, TWEET: @BillAdairDuke: I wish I got a nickel for every story that began “ _________ could determine which party controls the US Senate…”


… RICK SCOTT via the Tampa Bay Times

Why should you vote for Rick Scott to serve a second term as Florida governor? First and foremost, because he’s not Charlie Crist.

Gov. Scott is not TV-ready. He lacks Crist’s easy charm, empathic arched eyebrows and great hair. Awkward is an understatement for the lanky former CEO who tends to stand before TV cameras with flailing arms, bulging eyes and a plastic smile.

“But the bottom line for me is are you looking for somebody you want to go have a beer with or are you looking for somebody you want to run a $77 billion business that we call the state of Florida?” said state Sen. Tom Lee.

Indeed, Gov. Scott ran for governor as an outsider promising to focus relentlessly on jobs and turning around Florida’s wrecked economy. You can argue about whether Gov. Scott shifted the goalposts for measuring progress or how much credit he actually deserves, but you can’t quibble with Florida’s overall direction under Gov. Scott’s leadership.

Unemployment under Gov. Scott has fallen from 11 percent to 6.3 percent — the second largest drop in the country.

You may not love everything about Gov. Scott’s approach — reducing the number of state employees, initially cutting education spending and then ramping it back up as the economy improved, or cutting regulations and assorted business taxes — but you can’t criticize Gov. Scott for not keeping his eye on the ball.

He has been relentless in trying to improve Florida’s business climate and promoting the Sunshine State across the world. Crist was relentless mainly in promoting himself.

… CHARLIE CRIST via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Why should you vote for Charlie Crist to serve another term as Florida governor? First and foremost, because he’s not Rick Scott.

Nobody will argue Crist is a profile in courage, that he’s a leader with depth and conviction or even that the Gov. Scott campaign is far off base saying Crist represents “everything you hate about politics.”

But for all of Crist’s flip-flops, opportunism and spectacular self-absorption, he has at his core a deep understanding and love for the state of Florida. His gut instinct is to look out for the typical Floridian who on any given day may struggle to pay the power bill, fill up the gas tank or afford prescriptions.

Gov. Scott can be counted on to stick up for big corporations and the sorts of special interests who can afford lobbyists. Crist’s default position is to consider the interests of Joe Sixpack.

That was true when Crist was a Republican suing power companies over dramatic rate increases and it’s true now that Crist is a Democrat and those same utilities are spending millions of dollars to keep Gov. Scott in the Governor’s Mansion.

Charlie Crist is one of us. Rick Scott is not.

Of course, the Sunshine State welcomes outsiders and newcomers. But until the fluke of Gov. Scott, Floridians elected governors who understood their complex state, who knew something about Florida’s tradition of open government, for instance, or that people call the area around Tampa-St. Petersburg “Tampa Bay.”

TWEET, TWEET: @JackLatvala: One time I’m glad I took his call! (Latvala is quoted in Smith’s story about Scott)


On the campaign trail, Crist rarely, if ever, mentions a 1995 law that was arguably the most far-reaching legislation of his entire political career — and which used to be a key feature of his tough-on-crime persona.

The law requires Florida prisoners to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences, and it continues to affect thousands of people today.

Crist sponsored the law when he was in the state Senate and touted it repeatedly in his past campaigns as a Republican. But now, campaigning as the Democratic nominee for governor, his website makes no mention of the law — or, for that matter, any other specific criminal justice issue besides medical marijuana.

Ironically, the law has become a campaign promise in the current election — not for Crist, but for Gov. Rick Scott.

In an interview, Crist defended the law and his support for it but said the times were very different.

“I think it’s a good policy,” Crist said, but he noted he would be willing to “revisit” it as governor because of how it has affected people who commit nonviolent crimes.

Crist said the expansion of minimum mandatory prison sentences, something he supported as a Republican legislator, needs to be reviewed, too.


Crist is rarely without a shadow on the campaign trail.

No matter where the Democratic candidate for governor goes, especially in South Florida, he often has company thanks to Gov. Scott’s campaign.

The constant deployment of have-talking-points-will-travel surrogates is part of the 2014 campaign season’s cat-and-mouse game. The tactic is called bracketing in the political world.

“I can’t think of any campaign where the other side was as aggressive at showing up at the opponent’s events,” said Brian Crowley, who’s watched and written about gubernatorial campaigns for three decades and now publishes the online Crowley Political Report. “It’s certainly been done [but] not to this extent.”

When Crist appeared at the Palm Beach County Democratic Party’s big annual dinner last weekend, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera showed up outside. Lopez-Cantera was also across the street when Crist opened a campaign office in Fort Lauderdale and on numerous other occasions.

On the day Crist unveiled his plan to aid small businesses on Sept. 17, state Rep. Bill Hager was dispatched to refute and dispute the message. Hager has had several assignments, including holding court outside a Crist event in West Boca.

Even as Crist celebrated his primary night victory at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale, the Republican Party’s state chair, Leslie Dougher, came to the hotel lobby offering criticisms, reprising a role she has performed at other Crist events. She was at the Urban League of Broward County two days later when Crist and the Democratic Party held a unity rally.



As he campaigns for re-election, Gov. Scott portrays himself as a champion of public education who has increased spending, befriended teachers and ensured Florida’s schoolchildren will be better prepared to enter college or the job market. His record is at odds with his rhetoric. In 16 years since Republicans took over the Governor’s Mansion and began pushing major education policy changes, no governor has been so coldly calculating and cynical about what happens to Florida’s traditional public schools.

From his first year backing steep budget cuts and nonsensical teacher assessments to his repeated favoring of private interests, Scott has all but ignored the state’s constitutional duty to provide uniform, high-quality and free public schools. The state has its fourth education commissioner in four years. The governor’s Board of Education has pandered to the tea party’s misinformation campaign on the Common Core State Standards, and it has set the stage for a potentially disastrous standardized testing change this spring. This is not the work of a governor engaged in enhancing the state’s investment in children but of a former CEO who treats education like an expense line to be managed and squeezed.

In four years, Gov. Scott has done far more to undermine public education than to support it.

A month after taking office, Gov. Scott unveiled a proposed state budget that called for cutting school spending by 10 percent, or $700 per student. Even the Republican-led Legislature balked before agreeing to a still-staggering $1.3 billion in cuts for 2011-12 — or $540 per student. Florida’s public schools and their teachers have been struggling to regain their footing ever since.

When the furor erupted a year ago over the state’s years-old transition to Common Core State Standards, Gov. Scott rashly abandoned the state’s investment in a multistate, nonprofit testing concern that was writing Common Core assessments to replace the FCAT. Then the state Department of Education — whose administration of standardized testing has been highly problematic throughout Gov. Scott’s tenure — handed the test writing over to a firm that won’t do extensive field testing in Florida before students take the exams this spring. Transitions are always tough, but Gov. Scott has only made it harder by irresponsibly pushing forward without regard to the consequences.

A few months later, as Common Core came under attack, Gov. Scott called a summit of the state’s education leaders at St. Petersburg College. Then he failed to show up.

FUNNY READ: “The Diary of Rick Scott’s hair” via The New Times

GET SMART FAST with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune‘s Jeremy Wallace’s take on the governor’s race here.

JOHN MORGAN’S POT STANCE: PERSONAL OR POLITICAL? via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Opponents of Orlando attorney John Morgan and his push for medical marijuana have questioned his motivation, especially after a video surfaced of him drinking earlier this month and imploring college students to vote for the amendment on November’s ballot.

More than anything, he’s pushing the amendment to get young Democrats to turn out for the governor’s race and vote for his friend Charlie Crist, according to critics, who contend the video shows as much.

But during a speech in Sarasota, Morgan insisted that he’s been on a mission, spending millions of dollars, “raising hell” and “cussing” but not for the reasons his critics and the “hacks” contend.

“This is in memory and honor of my brother,” Morgan said.

Morgan’s brother Tim is a quadriplegic who has frequently been part of Morgan’s pitch for marijuana because he uses the illegal drug to fight pain and spasms as a result of being paralyzed since he was 18. But there was a different turn to the speech on Thursday about his brother.

“This year has been really difficult for me because Tim has had some real problems with his health,” Morgan told the Newtown audience.

Morgan said this year with his brother has showed him that he must act now, not wait for politicians to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. He said he has already spent $4 million and expects to spend more, but said it’s because of family — not politics.


Medical marijuana is one of the hottest issues on Florida’s November ballot, and on this week’s “Florida NewsMakers” program produced by Sachs Media Group, Trimmel Gomes hosts a debate featuring a pair of the top legal minds behind the campaigns for and against Amendment 2.

Attorney Reggie Garcia, representing the Yes on 2 organization United for Care, squares off against Susan Kelsey, an attorney who argued against Amendment 2 before the Florida Supreme Court and is now asking Floridians to vote No on 2. The amendment requires 60 percent approval by voters.


Earlier this week, the Republican Party of Florida went for the jugular in a new television ad that mentioned that Senate District 22 Democratic candidate Judithanne McLauchlan had a) filed for personal bankruptcy, and b) “was part of a group” that supports an income tax in Florida.

McLauchlan immediately responded to the latter charge, calling it “repulsive” and saying that she has always opposed a state income tax in Florida (the ad skillfully and perhaps unfairly did not ever say she supported a tax, but that she was part of a group – The League of Women Voters – who has endorsed creating an income tax).

But she didn’t respond to the charge that she had filed for bankruptcy – until now.

In an email sent to her supporters titled “Setting the record straight,” McLauchlan explains that a medical situation caused her to get into debt when she was a college student in the early 1990s.

Here’s an excerpt:

As a full-time student in the 1990s I was the proverbial “starving graduate student” – trying to get by on a modest stipend. Making ends meet in those years was tough. These financial difficulties were exacerbated by the high cost of health care insurance.

During this time, I was experiencing significant health issues. The health insurance I needed to cover the costs of my tests and treatment was too expensive for me to afford — almost as much as my monthly rent. So for several years I took on debt to pay for the insurance. Without the insurance my medical bills could have skyrocketed, and I was terrified of losing the insurance and later being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

Today, I am healthy, and my family has no debts, except for the mortgage on our home in Pinellas County. I am happy to say my daughter Peggy was born in 2005, and I had no complications, thanks to the amazing medical care I received in St. Petersburg.


“Florida Democrats are growing increasingly worried about their prospects in legislative races. One savvy Democratic operative last week predicted to The Buzz that Democrats will lose seven House seats in November, including three in Tampa Bay. The most-vulnerable Democrats? Mark Danish of Tampa, Dwight Dudley of St. Petersburg, Carl Zimmermann of Palm Harbor, Mike Clelland of St. Mary, Karen Castor Dentel of Maitland, Jose Javier Rodriguez of Miami and Linda Stewart of Orlando.”

FLASHBACK from SaintPetersBlog on September 15: “GOP poised to seize veto-proof majority in Florida House”

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Gov. Scott’s staff nearly reached a multi-billion dollar deal with the Seminole Indian tribe that would have allowed it to add roulette and craps at its South Florida casinos, documents obtained by The Associated Press show.

The deal, which was scuttled last spring amid resistance from state legislators, also would have opened the door for the Seminoles to build a casino in the Fort Pierce area and would likely have blocked construction of any Las Vegas-style casinos in Miami for the next seven years.

In exchange, the Republican governor would have gotten the headline-grabbing news that it was the largest deal ever reached between a tribe and a state government. The figure was expected to be $2 billion over a seven-year period and the words “largest guarantee ever” were included on several documents instead of an actual amount. Another estimate placed the deal at $15 billion over 30 years.

The documents released by the Scott administration four months after the AP first requested them show that the incumbent governor is open to shifting his stance on gambling. Scott previously has been viewed as quiet supporter of opening major casinos in South Florida and had fostered ties with casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp.

The deal proposed by the Scott administration would have eclipsed the $1 billion deal reached by then-Gov. Charlie Crist with the tribe. The 2010 compact approved by the Legislature allowed the tribe to gain a virtual monopoly on slot machines outside of South Florida and gave them table games such as blackjack at most of their facilities. But key portions of the deal expire next summer unless the tribe and the state craft a new agreement.

Under Florida law, dog and horse tracks and jai-alai frontons can also offer poker. Those in Broward and Miami-Dade counties can have slot machines.


State Board of Education members will meet in Tampa and consider a variety of issues, including a proposed 2015-16 legislative budget request. Tampa Airport Marriott, 4200 George J. Bean Parkway, Tampa. 9 a.m.


The Florida Chamber Foundation will start the three-day “Future of Florida Forum,” which will focus on issues such as water, the economy and health care and will draw state leaders and economic-development officials. Expected panelists Monday include Attorney General Pam Bondi; state Rep. Jason Brodeur, Jim Boyd, MaryLynn Magar, Daniel Davis, Matt Caldwell. Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Convention Center, 1700 Epcot Resorts Blvd., Lake Buena Vista. Noon.

WHAT REP. RICHARD CORCORAN IS READING: “Democracy requires a patriotic education” via Donald Kagan for The Wall Street Journal 

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly-personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee. –***


Ryan Duffy, a seasoned communicator with extensive experience working for senior elected officials in Tallahassee and Washington, is joining Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ Tallahassee office, company officials will announce Monday.

Duffy most recently served as communications director and spokesman for Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford. In this role, Duffy served as spokesman while the Florida House took on significant legislative challenges, including education reform, sweeping ethics changes, enhancements to Florida’s campaign finance laws, and pension reform.

Duffy, who will serve as a vice president, deepens the firm’s presence in the state capital and adds another senior counselor to its Florida public affairs practice. He will also work with the company’s national and global public affairs, crisis and corporate communications teams to support clients across the United States and the globe.

“H+K Strategies has a storied history as a global public affairs leader and I’m thrilled to be involved as the company continues to bolster its strong presence in Florida,” Duffy said. “I’m looking forward to joining an already stellar team and helping clients to navigate public policy issues and communications challenges statewide.”

Duffy adds to the firm’s deep bench of veteran public affairs counselors in Florida, including H+K Strategies’ Florida general manager and executive vice president Harry Costello, Ron Bartlett, a senior vice president who heads the firm’s public affairs practice in Florida, Alia Faraj-Johnson, a senior vice president who heads the firm’s Tallahassee office, and Bob Lotane, a vice president who also has considerable experience in the state capital.

“Ryan has established himself as a battle-tested communicator who knows the ins and outs of the state capital and Florida’s public affairs landscape,”Costello said. “From his strong background in speechwriting for a former governor and two U.S. senators to his role as spokesman for a house speaker, Ryan has found success in every endeavor. He will offer our clients invaluable insight and expertise.”


Fred Baggett, Gus Corbella, Hayden Dempsey, Leslie Dughi, Greenberg Traurig: Accredited Surety Casualty Company, Inc.

Larry Cretul, Capitol Insight: Faneuil, Inc.

Don DeLoach, Danny Jordan, One Eighty Consulting: MainNerve

Thomas DeRita, The Resource Group: FGH, Inc.

Kenneth Granger, Capital City Consulting: Careington International Corporation; Notary Public Underwriters, Inc.

Deno Hicks, Southern Strategy Group: Wespac Midstream

Robert Kappelmann: Florida Municipal Electric Association

Cynthia Lorenzo, Alan Suskey, Capitol Insight: The Mariner Group

Gerald Wester, Ashley Mayer, Capital City Consulting: Notary Public Underwriters, Inc.

William Sklar, Carlton Fields: PRH Investments, LLC; The Related Group

Larry Williams, Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart: Floridian Natural Gas Storage Company

***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***

FSU STAYS AT NO. 1 AFTER RALLY via The Associated Press

Florida State stays at No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll after a second straight comeback victory, but support for the Seminoles is waning.

Jameis Winston returned from a one-game benching to lead Florida State past North Carolina State 56-41. The Seminoles trailed 24-7 in the first quarter.

Florida State received 27 first-place votes, seven fewer than last week, from the media panel Sunday. No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Alabama both had 13 first-place votes. No. 4 Oklahoma drew the remaining six first-place votes.

There was little movement throughout the rankings, with the first seven teams holding their spots. That could change next week when six games match ranked teams, including three SEC games.

Alabama visits No. 11 Mississippi; No. 6 Texas A&M goes to No. 12 Mississippi State; and No. 5 Auburn hosts No. 15 LSU.

BEST TWEET ABOUT THE FSU GAME: @MearKat00: These refs are having more conferences than our budget committees. Sheesh.


On Context Florida: For the first time ever, Ed Moore is including the name Keith Olbermann in one of his columns. Recently, Moore heard Olbermann bluster about Derek Jeter, where he called the retiring New York Yankee star “not the greatest player ever.” Vitriolic social media posters are like Olbermann — always seeking attention, highly partisan, and often just enough off the mark you wonder if they even read their own prose. Challenging authority is a lesson Catherine Durkin Robinson believes all children should learn. Those who believe being bold is dangerous might have a slight point, but to Robinson, it is far more dangerous staying silent.Martin Dyckman sets his sights on Florida’s First District Court of Appeal, which voted 2-1 against Laura Rivero Levey, disqualified as a Republican legislative candidate in Miami Beach because a bank error bounced her perfectly good qualifying-fee check. Subsequently, nine judges refused to hear Levey’s appeal en banc. The state Supreme Court needs to take the case immediately, Dyckman writes, to restore common sense in the dispute. Floridians count on social media for information about news and weather, but sometimes it can be a disappointing source.  UCF professor Melody Bowdon once worked with a team of research assistants analyzing the Hurricane Sandy-related tweets posted by several organizations storm victims would likely turn to in an emergency. She found that most of these tweets would have almost no value to a person evacuating, seeking shelter, or worrying about loved ones.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Veteran GOP presidential operative and New York Times Best-selling author Roger Stone visits Tampa on Tuesday.
The colorful Stone’s  book “The Man Who killed Kennedy – the Case Against LBJ” out-sold every JFK 50th anniversary book except Bill O’Reilly’s, hitting the New York Times list last November. Now Stone is back with “Nixon’s Secrets,” a deep political bio that puts new perspective on Watergate and the career of Richard Nixon. Stone worked for four Republican nominees, saw and heard plenty and has a lot to dish. Stone even has some inside tales when it comes to Hillary and the 37th President.

Talk, Q&A and book signing 7 p.m. at Barnes and Noble. 11802 North Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa.

If nothing else, go just to see what the dapper man is wearing!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to David Bishop. Oh, and Steve Schale turns 4-0 today!

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.