Sunburn for 9/30 – 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: With the women’s vote considered so important in Florida’s gubernatorial campaign, it’s hard to imagine that this demographic couldn’t always participate in elections. On this day in 1889, Wyoming became the first state to adopt a constitution giving women the right to vote. Even though the new state offered women this important right, equality didn’t extend to everything: Women were constitutionally barred from mining coal in Wyoming until almost a century later.

Now, on to the ‘burn…


Vice-President Joe Biden’s South Florida-bound for Charlie Crist on Monday, Oct. 13 — making him the latest national Democrat to join the guubernatorial candidate on the campaign trail, sources say. More information will be made available at a later date.

Biden, who has presidential aspirations, follows another likely White House candidate, Hillary Clinton, who stumps Thursday with Crist at an event that’s likely somewhere in the Miami area. No details have yet been made available. Clinton is also signing her new book, “Hard Choices.”

Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clintton, campaigned with Crist in early September in Miami.


With just over a month until election day, Rick Scott continues to have a four-point lead over Charlie Crist, 43 to 39 percent, according to the latest Florida Chamber Political Institute (FCPI) poll. Those numbers are just outside of the poll’s margin of error.

Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie receives 4 percent, while 5 percent say they will vote for someone else; 7 percent of respondents remain “firmly undecided.”

Just under half of those polled (49 percent) approve of the job the incumbent is doing. Crist remains underwater with 50 percent unfavorable and 39 percent favorable.

“Jobs and the economy (29 percent) continue to be the number one issue among voters,” says the poll’s memo, “followed by education (19 percent) and healthcare (6 percent).”

Other races polled include Attorney General, where Republican incumbent Pam Bondi leads Democrat George Sheldon 48 percent to 31 percent.

Republican State CFO Jeff Atwater also leads his opponent, Democrat William Rankin, 43 percent to 27 percent.

In the race for Agriculture Commissioner, incumbent Republican Adam Putnam also has a double-digit advantage over Democrat Thaddeus Hamilton, 41 percent to 29 percent.

SCOTT’S TAX ATTACK ON CRIST SKIRTS TRUTH via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

As they prepare for the first of three TV debates, Gov. Scott and former Gov. Crist are fine-tuning their talking points for viewers who are just starting to pay attention to the biggest race for governor in the country.

Scott is sure to remind TV viewers that when Florida was in the depths of a recession in 2009, Crist raised taxes and fees by $2.2 billion.

That’s true. But it’s not the whole truth.

It’s an example of how Scott rewrites history to suit his political ends (and he’s hardly the first politician to do that).

What Scott leaves out is that virtually every Republican in the Legislature voted to raise those taxes and fees, including his lieutenant governor, Carlos Lopez-Cantera; his former lieutenant governor Jennifer Carroll; and the most influential GOP legislators in both chambers.

Crist, who has since become a Democrat, didn’t do it alone. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who was president of the Senate, voted for those higher fees. So did Rep. Will Weatherford, the outgoing House speaker, and Rep. Jimmy Patronis, a termed-out member recently chosen by Scott to serve on the Public Service Commission.

The list goes on and on. The architects of those tax and fee hikes in 2009 included some of Scott’s biggest supporters. Not only that, but some of them defend the decision to this day, calling it difficult, unavoidable and the right thing to do.


Two Tampa Bay election supervisors criticized as “inaccurate” and “incorrect” a mailer by Gov. Scott’s campaign committee that tells voters that their absentee ballots should have arrived by now.  The attention-grabbing mailer by Scott’s Let’s Get to Work committee has the words “Voter Alert!” and the statement, “By now, you should have received your absentee ballot.”

Not true, elections official say. The first day that domestic absentee ballots can be mailed is Tuesday, Sept. 30. They can be mailed as late as Oct. 7. The last thing county elections officials want is to be inaccurately blamed for not sending ballots to their voters.

Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer issued a news release that said, “Their information is incorrect.” He plans to mail more than 150,000 absentees to Tampa-area voters on Oct. 6.

On Twitter, Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley showed the mailer and said: “Here is the inaccurate flyer that voters throughout FL rec’d with incorrect info from #LetsGetToWork.”

Yet another tweet from Seminole County Supervisor Mike Ertel: “Absentee ballots to local voters have not been mailed. Florida voters get ballots about one month before Election Day.”

Scott campaign spokesperson Jackie Schutz issued this statement: “Voting by mail is important, and we hope that all voters will receive their vote-by-mail ballots promptly.” The campaign wouldn’t comment on the record as to why it sent voters inaccurate information, but it’s possible that the mail pieces simply reached Florida households sooner than expected.


NARAL Pro-Choice America, a national abortion-rights organization, is targeting Gov. Scott along with fellow Republican Govs. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Scott Walker of Wisconsin with direct-mail, online ads and phone calls to voters.

The rationale: what the group calls their “decision to not only drive an anti-choice agenda, but to make it a priority above the economic interests voters elected them to advance.”

The announcement said “key voters” would get three mail pieces between now and the Nov. 4 election.

Both Gov. Scott and Crist were using contrasting messages to appeal to female voters, with which Crist once held a formidable lead. Gov. Scott has been using a message of family values and economic security, while Camp Crist has been emphasizing his support for abortion rights, equal pay for women and other civil justice and equity issues.

Over the course of his political career, Crist has alternated between calling himself pro-choice and pro-life. But he notes how he voted against legislation requiring a waiting period for an abortion as a legislator in the 1990s.

Crist voted to override a veto by then-Gov. Lawton Chiles of an abortion ultrasound bill. And he has supported legislation requiring a waiting period for minors seeking abortions since then.

Gov. Scott, however, has signed a long list of bills designed to place more “road blocks” up for women seeking abortions, including mandating a woman receive an ultrasound before an abortion; adding new requirements to the state’s “Parental Notice of Abortion Act”; and directing more state dollars from the sale of “Choose Life” license plates to anti-abortion advertising.

EMAIL OF THE DAY: “I am not a morning person” via Ben Sharpe of the Florida Democratic Party.

CREEPIEST EMAIL SUBJECT LINE OF THE DAY: “I can’t sleep Peter” via “Allison’s iPad”


A fundraising reception is scheduled for Democrat David Silvers, who is trying to unseat state Rep. Bill Hager in House District 89. (Salt7, 32 S.E. Second Ave., Delray Beach. 5:30 p.m.


>>> The Florida Medical Association PAC is endorsing State Rep. Mike La Rosa in his re-election bid for House District 42, which covers parts of Osceola and Polk Counties. “As a business owner who works in real estate and development, (La Rosa) has his finger on the pulse of one of the top indicators of our state’s economy, and we know we can rely on him to support sound legislation and policy,” said FMA PAC President Ralph Nobo.

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Florida’s child welfare agency was warned in 2013 that a man should be kept away from the daughter and six grandchildren that he later killed, Alachua County’s sheriff told a newspaper.

Last year, three of the six children killed were interviewed by a child protection team that warned Florida’s Department of Children and Families that Don Spirit should have no contact with his grandchildren, Sheriff Sadie Darnell told The Gainesville Sun.

On Sept. 18, Spirit shot 28-year-old Sarah Spirit, and her six children: Kaleb Kuhlmann, 11; Kylie Kuhlmann, 9; Johnathon Kuhlmann, 8; Destiny Stewart, 5; Brandon Stewart, 4; and Alanna Stewart, who was born in June, in Bell before killing himself.

Darnell says DCF was warned during the 2013 child abuse investigation by a University of Florida child protection team.

“And DCF was advised (for the children) not to have contact with the grandfather,” Darnell said.

The child protection team responded after Spirit’s ex-wife, Christine Jeffers, called authorities in an attempt to protect her grandchildren, telling a deputy that Don Spirit suffered from bipolar disorder.

In the Alachua County sheriff’s report of the 2013 child abuse interview, Sarah Spirit told a deputy she had seen guns in her father’s possession. As a former felon, he was not legally allowed to have firearms.

It is unclear what, if anything, DCF did in response to the warning.


Floridians 50 or older make up just 38 percent of the state’s population. Yet, despite being fewer in number, they have a bigger economic impact than younger residents here.

The older generation generates 54 percent of the state’s economic output, works in 58 percent of the state’s jobs, and pays 67 percent of state and local taxes. It also accounts for 58 percent of total consumer spending, the chief driver to keep the economy churning.

Those numbers — included in a report released by senior advocates AARP and Oxford Economics — are part of a concerted effort to tout the value of Florida’s so-called “Longevity Economy” and urge state leaders to do more to support and attract the 50-and-up set.

Though Florida’s population skews older than the national average, there’s a common misconception that all retiree roads lead to Florida and a budding complacency that retiring Baby Boomers will move to Florida regardless.

Florida is still one of the country’s retirement meccas, but it’s losing market share to states like North Carolina and Tennessee, which have become more active in selling themselves.

Instead, Florida has largely left the business of luring retirees to individual developers of communities like the Villages.

FLORIDA 8TH WORST STATE FOR TEACHERS, STUDY SAYS via Leslie Postal of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

Florida ranks near the bottom when it comes to opportunities for teachers, according to a new study. It was the “eighth worst state for teachers” on the list that ranked the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

The study by WalletHub ranked the states based on a number of factors, including starting teacher salaries, 10-year change in teacher salaries, per-pupil spending, average class sizes, safe school measures and teacher unemployment.

The study found the Top 5 states for teachers, starting with the best: Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Virginia. The states that were worse than Florida, starting at the bottom: North Carolina, Mississippi, West Virginia, South Dakota, Hawaii, Arizona and South Carolina.

“Most educators don’t pursue their profession for the money. That’s a no-brainer these days. But that also doesn’t justify low pay, especially for a profession that makes such a profound difference in young people’s lives. And the sad reality is this: Many teachers are shortchanged with salaries that fail to keep up with inflation. Meanwhile, their workloads have grown with heightened demand from the law to elicit better student performance,” the WalletHub study’s author wrote.


“I know what it’s like to oppose John Thrasher. I was a very junior senator facing one of Florida’s most respected, influential leaders who believed, on his side, just as strongly as I did on mine. I felt the force of his muscular personality, his immense grasp of the issues and his access to great resources both human and material. It was the toughest fight of my legislative career.

“My fear was, win or lose, I would earn a powerful enemy.

“But when the battle was over, the first hand stretched out to me was John Thrasher’s. “Now let’s work together,” he offered. “Jean and I want to get to know you.” In the years since, we have become very close friends — friends who still occasionally see things differently.

“Granted, I didn’t threaten to “make his life a living hell” or “become an angry hive and sting him.” I didn’t chant, scream profanities, weep, accuse him of racism or sexism, call him a xenophobe or suggest he would tolerate violence against women. I went to the mat against John Thrasher on an issue just as important to me as the Florida State University presidency is to others, but I didn’t act like the handful of faculty members and students who embarrassed their university and discredited themselves by how they disagreed.

“I wonder how any of us, excoriated as Sen. Thrasher was, would stretch out our hand to “academics” who couldn’t even spell “politican” correctly on a protest sign.

“Their excuse is academic freedom. Really, it’s unacademic intolerance. The academicians of antiquity and the great collegiate institutions FSU seeks to emulate would be appalled by the inarticulate outbursts and tantrums that unraveled last Tuesday. These illiberal liberals broke every one of Saul Alinsky’s rules for radicals.

“The rap on Thrasher is he’s not an academic. With all due respect, so what? The president doesn’t fine-tune the curriculum or micro-manage who teaches what. He doesn’t grade papers or approve thesis proposals. The president doesn’t even hire the people who do. The chief academic officer is the provost. The deans lead the colleges. The professors teach the courses.”


As House Speaker Will Weatherford departs the political scene, he sounds like a man focused more on now than later.

Weatherford, a 34-year-old Wesley Chapel Republican, faces term limits after eight years as a state representative, the last two as speaker.

Weatherford says he doesn’t know the answer to the obvious question: How long will it be before his name is back on a Florida ballot?

In the last few months, Weatherford has opened a political action committee, seeded with $425,000 from the Republican Party of Florida, and has given to several GOP legislative candidates running this year.

In turn, through the Committee for a Stronger Florida, Weatherford has dispensed $1,000 each to the campaigns for Gov. Scott, CFO Jeff Atwater, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi, all incumbent Republicans.

Campaign finance records show his committee also has passed through $10,000 to a PAC controlled by fellow Pasco County GOP representative Richard Corcoran, on tap to be speaker in 2017-18, and sent $5,000 to another PAC chaired by state Rep. Eddy Gonzalez.

But political fundraising is just a sideline for him, Weatherford said. For instance, he mentioned doing “business development,” though didn’t have specifics yet.

FORMER DMS CHIEF: STATE WORKERS MUST ‘TOLERATE ABSURDITY’ via Bill Cottrell of the Tallahassee Democrat

Jack Miles was Gov. Scott’s first secretary of the Department of Management Services, a nice guy who left, alas, without any tell-all criticism of the governor. The DMS job didn’t work out, for whatever reason, but perhaps he and Gov. Scott had a similar outlook as longtime executives in the private sector who were new to government.

Miles is now managing director of a Winter Park business consulting company, MainSpring Advisors, and recently blogged some interesting observations on his specialty, contracting and procurement. In his latest effort, he tells a story about the difference between the private sector and state government.

In the installment of his three-part series at (index for “Jack Miles,” if you’re interested), Miles wrote about how purchasing procedures are different in the private and public sectors. You want to prevent fraud and make sure the taxpayers get a fair deal, he said, but you can’t bureaucratize the system to the point that it hamstrings itself.

In his second essay, Miles wrote about the bid-protest procedure, which relates to the first topic — an honest competitor should be able to contest a bid award that doesn’t look right. But, drawing on his long experience in purchasing and contracting, Miles writes that losing bidders can needlessly tie up a legitimate government decision and sometimes use the discovery process to go fishing in the winning bidder’s strategic papers, to make a smarter bid next time.

Last week, Miles blogged about people in agencies. His topic was purchasing, but his thoughts apply pretty well to most areas of state government.

“You can’t legislate honesty, or competence, and in trying to do so, we’ve made it much, much more complicated, time-consuming and expensive to do the work that needs to get done,” Miles wrote. “And we’ve created a bureaucracy that stifles creativity.”

Miles cites the botched rollout of the federal system last year as an example of government procurement gone wrong. He’d worked with some of the planners when he was at CIGNA, before going to DMS, and Miles said they made up “a very competent organization, but they were trying to herd cats within a government environment, wrangling with agencies that didn’t communicate with each other and dealing with turf battles over responsilility and accountability.”


The Florida Chamber Foundation will continue 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 speakers and panelists Tuesday include Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera; state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater; state Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio; state university system Chancellor Marshall Criser; House Speaker Will Weatherford; state Reps. Matt Hudson, Cary Pigman, and Bryan Nelson. Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Convention Center, 1700 Epcot Resorts Blvd., Lake Buena Vista. 8 a.m.


William Rubin, Melissa Akeson, Heather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Surterra Holdings, Inc.

Gary Rutledge, Jonathan Costello, Rutledge Ecenia: Fronton Holdings, LLC

Jason Gonzalez, Daniel O’ Keefe, Shutts & Bowen: American Land Investments of Orange Co., LLC; Banksville of Florida; Nivesa of Florida

Mike Haridopolos, Tsamoutales Strategies: Rivada Networks

David Miller, Broad and Cassel: Costa Farms


Former U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, scion of one of Florida’s most prominent political families, has joined Levick, a Washington D.C.-based public relations firm.

The Washington Post’s Catherine Ho reports that Mack has already been working at the firm for a month as an executive vice-president.

Mack’s hiring is part of Levick’s push to integrate its bread-and-butter communications and public affairs services with formal lobbying. Mack is an executive vice president at the firm and began work this month.

Levick in January acquired Dow Lohnes Government Strategies, a lobbying subsidiary that was previously owned by the law firm Dow Lohnes, in its first major foray into lobbying. Mack said Levick’s approach to combining communications with lobbying was appealing.


On Context FloridaSteven Kurlander points out the contrast between players like Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who knocked his fiancé unconscious in a hotel elevator, and three other NFL players recently accused of violence, and the usually charming Yankee Derek Jeter. Long overdue, after four decades of criminal prosecutions, the passage of Amendment 2 will put your use of marijuana in the hands of physicians you trust. Norm Kent notes that the strategic and glorious part of this proposal is that it allows patients to acquire their medicine with a written certification from their doctor, just as you get prescriptions for other private, medical needs. Don Gaetz knows what it is like to oppose John Thrasher. But when the battle was over, the first hand stretched out in friendship was John Thrasher’s. Defining Thrasher’s life is an unrelenting search for unifying solutions among people of good will and will always do more than his part. With five weeks left the Florida governor’s race, Peter Schorsch says the contest is nearly where prognosticators expected it to be. After nearly a year of brutal, expensive campaigning, the two candidates have about the same amount of resources left at their disposal, and only so much time and capacity to spend it.

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 on-again, off-again, always successfulTampa Bay political consultant Steve Lapinski.

TWEET, TWEET: @adamsmithtimes: This is a first. College kid just stopped me, thinking I was Trey Anastasio from Phish

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.