Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray, and Jim Rosica.
ANNOUNCED OVERNIGHT: President Obama will visit Jacksonville Friday to deliver a speech on the stimulus.
WHAT HAPPENS TONIGHT IN VEGAS DOES NOT STAY IN VEGAS — The field of 17 candidates is now down to just five, but the heavy favorite in tonight’s GOP Nevada caucus remains Donald Trump, fresh off his 10-point victory in South Carolina on Saturday night. A poll taken last week had the NYC business mogul up by over twenty points over Marco Rubio.
Thirty delegates are at stake, and will be awarded proportionately, meaning the still-crowded field could split significantly.
Like the Palmetto State primary, the Silver State caucus’s only real drama may be simply watching to see who comes in second place, with Rubio and Ted Cruz expected once again battling it out to get bragging rights of some sort.
Rubio dominated Monday’s news cycle by churning out hourly news releases of major Republicans who are now backing him in the race, including affirmations of support from U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and former presidential candidate Bob Dole.
But the Florida senator, who lived in Las Vegas for six years in the 70s and 80s and had spent considerable time campaigning in Nevada, doesn’t expect to win on Tuesday, or come in a close second. In fact, he won’t even be in the state for the majority of the day, instead campaigning in Minnesota, one of 11 states that will hold a caucus or primary on Super Tuesday.
Ted Cruz comes into the primary on a cold streak, having lost the last two primaries after capturing the Iowa caucus. He played defense on Monday, firing communications director Rick Tyler after Tyler distributed a video that falsely depicted Rubio of dismissing the Bible.
The dust-ups come as the two senators have been clashing in recent says about “dishonesty” and “lies” on the trail.
Meanwhile, The Donald sits back and eats it up. After Tyler’s firing, the front-runner tweeted, “”Wow, Ted Cruz falsely suggested Marco Rubio mocked the Bible and was just forced to fire his Communications Director. More dirty tricks!”
Meanwhile, no one is sure how the vote counting will go tonight. Party officials fear it could duplicate the debacle of the 2012 GOP caucus, when it took several days to count just 33,000 ballots to certify that Mitt Romney defeated Newt Gingrich.
Those 33,000 voters represented just 8 percent of Republican voters in the state, and nobody is certain how robust turnout will be tonight.
Then again, there’s a lot of things that election officials are uncertain of going in this caucus.
In voter-rich Clark County, GOP volunteers at each of the 36 caucus locations will count ballots by hand, write the results on an envelope, take a photograph of the envelope and text it the photo to Ed Wilson, the Clark County Republican Party Chairman and state Republican officials.
Reportedly, officials considered converting the caucus into a primary this year. Based on how the vote comes out, they may rue not making that decision.
TED CRUZ LANDS IN NEVADA AND RESTARTS THE EXPECTATIONS GAME via David Weigel of The Washington Post — At his first event in a three-day sprint to the Republican presidential caucuses … Cruz told reporters what they might have missed on TV. He repeated his message, that South Carolina gave him a “tie for second place,” then recalled what Rubio — who finished 1,000 votes ahead — just told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos. “He was asked: ‘What state can you win?’ ” Cruz said before addressing a crowd of several hundred voters outside a sports bar. “‘You weren’t able to win in Iowa. You weren’t able to win in New Hampshire. You weren’t able to win in South Carolina. When can you win a state?’ And the answer he gave was Florida on March 15. Now, that’s a fairly amazing admission that they know they’re not going to win here in Nevada. Apparently, they don’t believe they’re going to win any states on Super Tuesday.” The Cruz was paraphrasing; this wasn’t quite what Rubio had said. He insisted he was running a “national campaign,” and noted that “come March 15, if you win a state you get all of their delegates, that’s when it’s really going to start to matter.” He did not say he would rack up losses until Florida’s primary.
CRUZ IN TURMOIL via Eli Stokols and Shane Goldmacher of POLITICO — Cruz abruptly fired communications director Rick Tyler on Monday afternoon, a day after Tyler posted, then deleted, a link to a student newspaper’s blog that had misstated Rubio’s comments about the Bible. The blog quoted Rubio as telling a Cruz staffer reading a Bible on Saturday that the book didn’t “have many answers in it.” Rubio said he actually said, “the answer to every question you’ll ever have is in that book.” The blog later added an editor’s note saying that “after reviewing the audio, we feel it is too unclear to say for sure” what Rubio said. Tyler apologized, but it was not enough, especially after Cruz’s team took criticism for falsely implying, just as Iowans prepared to vote, that rival Ben Carson was getting ready to drop out. “This campaign now has repeatedly done things that they have to apologize for, and no one is ever held accountable,” Rubio said to reporters in Nevada on Monday. “Who’s going to be held accountable for making up this video? Who is going to be held accountable for lying about Ben Carson? Who was held accountable for the robocalls, and who was held accountable for the commercials on television that they had to pull down?” It didn’t take long for Cruz to answer.
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TRUMP’S CAMPAIGN HAS SPREAD BEYOND EARLY TO VOTE STATES via Julie Bykowicz and Jack Gillum of The Associated Press — Trump‘s field operation as outlined in the January fundraising reports looks more like that of … Sanders and … Clinton than any of his four Republican competitors. At the beginning of the year, Trump had more salaried campaign employees than … Cruz or … Rubio … Trump had at least 17 paid field consultants in states beyond the first four, … [including] Alabama, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia. And his campaign was already paying for office space in eight states that vote in March … Sanders and Clinton each had a presence in at least a dozen states voting in March … Kasich had two offices in March states (including one in his home state), Rubio one and Cruz none, though his campaign headquarters is in Houston, where voters weigh in March 1. Rubio’s campaign said it will open a Georgia office … and earlier hung its shingle in Birmingham, Alabama, and Maple Grove, Minnesota. … Cruz’s campaign showed payments to a handful of strategists in March-voting states, including Michigan.
TRUMP LEADS POLLS IN 10 OF NEXT 14 VOTING STATES via Chris Perez of the New York Post — Trump is leading in 10 of the 14 states set to vote in Republican primaries or caucuses over the next two weeks. Recent polls show that Trump is ahead in Nevada, Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Virginia, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Louisiana. According to Real Clear Politics, his biggest lead is in Massachusetts, where he is 35 points ahead of Rubio. Trump’s lowest margin of victory is predicted to come in Minnesota, where he leads Rubio by 6 points. In Texas … Cruz’s home state, Trump trails him by 6.7 percent, meaning he could still grab a chunk of the state’s 172 delegates. Trump is currently ahead with a total of 61 delegates, 50 more than Cruz. The eventual nominee will need 1,236 out of 2,472.
— Trump consults with Rudy Giuliani as he builds political kitchen cabinet” via Robert Costa of The Washington Post
— “I’m never voting for Trump” via Erick Erickson of The Resurgent
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PRO-RUBIO SUPER PAC STARTS TO JAB TRUMP via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — The super PAC backing Rubio‘s presidential campaign has been hands-off when it comes to Republican front-runner Trump. That changed … in a new TV ad where Conservative Solutions PAC dings Trump as “erratic” and “unreliable” — and Cruz as “erratic” and “underhanded.”
— “Bob Dole endorses Marco Rubio in 2016 race” via ABC News
MORE BIG GOP DONORS SHIFT TO RUBIO via Fredreka Schouten of USA TODAY — Chicago financier Muneer Satter. Florida real estate magnate John Rood. Coal billionaire Joe Craft. Construction tycoon Francis Rooney. These are among the Republican Party donors who now support Rubio‘s bid for their party’s presidential nomination. Bush‘s departure … set off a mad dash for his big contributors, and Rubio appears to be the early beneficiary of the newly liberated GOP money … the new set announced by the campaign is notable because it includes people with a demonstrated willingness to write big super PAC checks. Craft, for instance, donated $1 million to a pro-MItt Romney super PAC during the 2012 campaign. Satter gave more than $500,000 to Bush’s late super PAC, Right to Rise.
REPUBLICAN LEGISLATORS TO ENDORSE RUBIO via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — The Jeb-to-Marco shift will continue … as Miami-Dade’s Republican legislative delegation, and several Republicans legislators from across the state who endorsed Bush will announce their new allegiance to Rubio. “The prudent thing to do is to support our senator, our hometown guy but, it comes with a heavy heart,” said Jose Oliva … He said the Miami-Dade GOP legislators made the decision they will make the announcement together. Their decision will follow the announcement Monday by Miami’s congressional delegation — Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, — who also had endorsed Bush but announced … they will now back Rubio.
— “Is Marco Rubio now the GOP Frontrunner?” via Bloomberg Politics
— “Rubio gets new wave of establishment endorsements” via Tal Kopan and David Wright of CNN
— “Tom Lee endorses Marco Rubio for president” via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News
— “Denise Grimsely is running again — and she endorses Marco Rubio” via Bill Rufty of Sunshine State News
— “Dean Cannon endorses Marco Rubio, calling him the future of the GOP” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times
SAVE THE DATE: Rubio is hosting a debate watch party and post-debate bash Thursday, March 10, at the University of Miami Newman Alumni Center, 6200 San Amaro Dr. in Coral Gables.
RUBIO HAS A MONEY PROBLEM via Tina Nguyen of Vanity Fair — Despite the incessant boosterism surrounding his campaign, Rubio had only $5.1 million on hand at the end of January, according to the most recent F.E.C. filings, and his own super-PACs had, by the end of 2015, about $14 million, though that might be largely diminished by the past three primary races. Nevertheless, that money is dwarfed by Cruz, who has $13.6 million on hand and a still-robust super-PAC that initially raised $36 million, and Trump, a billionaire who is self-funding his campaign. One thing Rubio does have going for him is Wall Street, which has backed his candidacy more than any other … With Bush out and Kasich still an afterthought, more funding from the financial sector could be headed his way. One potential solution, should Rubio find himself the recipient of a wave of donor largesse, would be to use the money to run ads against Trump himself, a tactic that few candidates have taken thus far.
GOP TO JOHN KASICH: GET OUT via Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — The Republican establishment has a message for John Kasich: get out, and get out of Marco Rubio’s way. A string of elected officials, GOP insiders, and prominent donors officially threw their support behind Rubio on Monday, calling him their last chance to take down Donald Trump. Their statements had another common theme. Some explicitly called for Kasich to quit, while others stopped sent the same message by saying the Ohio Governor’s ongoing presence is holding Rubio back. … It’s not all dark news for Kasich. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld threw support to Kasich Monday afternoon. Kasich has nabbed Ken Langone, the Home Depot co-founder who backed Christie through New Hampshire, and The New York Times reported Monday morning that billionaire financier Stanley Druckenmiller lined up with Kasich too.
JUST THIS ONE JEB BUSH RELATED EPILOGUE: A former bundler for Jeb Bush tells CNN that GOP strategist Mike Murphy “made minimum of $14 million” running the Bush super PAC Right to Rise. Murphy responded to the figure by calling it, “Absolute bullshit. That mystery donor should have the guts to call me and get straightened out.”
AS VOTING BEGINS IN FLORIDA, RICK SCOTT SAYS HE’S UNDECIDED ON PRESIDENTIAL PICK, ENDORSEMENT via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — Scott, who lavished praise on Trump last month in a USA Today op-ed and national TV interview, says he hasn’t decided how he’ll vote or whether he’ll make an endorsement before Florida’s March 15 primary. Most of the candidates listed on Florida’s March 15 Republican presidential primary are no longer running … Scott suggests it’s prudent to wait until after the March 1 “Super Tuesday” primaries to cast a ballot. “First off, we’re going to see who’s here after March 1,” Scott said. “We’ve got 11 states, I think it is, (holding primaries or caucuses) on the first of March. So let’s see what happens then.”
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Scott will announce new jobs at Ashley Furniture’s Global Retail & Ecommerce Offices at 11 a.m., Centro Ybor Courtyard, 1670 8th Avenue in Tampa. He will then head to Jacksonville to talk jobs at 2 p.m. at Macquarie, 1301 Riverplace Blvd. in Jacksonville. That event is on the fifth floor.
DAVID JOLLY SAYS CARLOS BERUFF’S ENTRANCE INTO THE GOP SENATE RACE WILL ONLY BOOST HIS OWN CANDIDACY via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — Jolly says he’s not concerned at all concerned about the effect that wealthy Manatee County developer Beruff’s entrance into the GOP race for U.S. Senate campaign might mean for him, saying, “If anything, it’s a huge win for the David Jolly campaign.” Beruff, a multimillionaire, has ties to … Scott. “If you’re the Lieutenant Governor, and the governor’s team is beginning to coalesce behind somebody else, it’s a bit of an embarrassing moment,” Jolly said … “For Ron DeSantis, his money advantage evaporates overnight, and frankly, the lane that is preaching shutting down the government and obstructing just got a little more crowded and Ron and Carlos are going to have to fight for that.”
HOUSE ETHICS COMMITTEE EXTENDS ITS REVIEW OF ALAN GRAYSON via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — Complaints about Grayson’s hedge funds were filed last year by a conservative group and by a supporter of Grayson’s Democratic Senate primary rival, Rep. Patrick Murphy …, The complaints were filed with the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, which reviewed the matter and then referred it to the Ethics Committee on Jan. 6. According to Office of Congressional Ethics rules, a referral to the Ethics Committee means the office determined there is “probable cause” or “substantial reason to believe” the underlying allegations. Neither determination constitutes a finding that a violation occurred. Similarly, the Ethics Committee today said that “the mere fact of a referral or an extension, and the mandatory disclosure of such an extension and the name of the subject of the matter, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee.” The Ethics Committee has until April 5 to announce whether to launch a full investigation of Grayson.
— “Old lawsuit shows Grayson playing hardball with pregnant worker” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida
NANCY PELOSI TO JOIN VAL DEMINGS IN CD 10 EVENT IN ORLANDO via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Pelosi … already has endorsed Demings over her rivals state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, businessman Bob Poe and lawyer Fatima Rita Fahmy, will tour The Village Square development in Orlando at 10:30 a.m. They will be joined by Village Square Business Manager George Coar. Together they plan to highlight local support for Demings, a former Orlando police chief, and for minority- and family-owned businesses in Central Florida.
DAN WEBSTER TO RUN IN RICH NUGENT’S DISTRICT via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Webster [will] not be running for re-election in District 10, the district he currently represents. Instead, he will run in District 11, which includes Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter Counties. Court-ordered redistricting transformed District 10, which used to be made up of largely Republican, white, suburban and rural communities in Lake, Polk, and Orange counties, to a largely Democratic African-American and Hispanic district entirely within Orange County and including much of Orlando. “I’m running for another term in Congress because there is still much to be done to reform the process and fix what is broken in Washington,” Webster said … “For the past five years, I have fought to change the power based, staff-driven Congressional process into one based upon principles. Last year, I ran for Speaker against John Boehner and the powerful Washington establishment because I believe that our country deserves a legislative process that works.”
SAVE THE DATE: Republican congressional candidate Rebecca Negron hosts her campaign kickoff event Saturday, March 12 at Halpatiokee Regional Park, 7645 SW. Lost River Rd. in Stuart. Negron, the wife of Republican Senate President-designate Joe Negron, is running for Florida’s 18th Congressional District.
***HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS – Celebrating 90 years of providing smiles, sportsmanship and service to millions of people worldwide, the world famous Harlem Globetrotters will bring their unrivaled family show to the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, March 3, 2016, at 7 p.m., during their 90th Anniversary World Tour. Tickets are on sale now at TuckerCivicCenter.com!***
NO MORE ’70S PANELING: FLORIDA SENATE READIES FOR A REFRESH via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Say goodbye to all those yards of fake-wood laminate: The Florida Senate will be shedding the 1970s look of its chamber with a nearly $5 million renovation this year. Senate President Andy Gardiner, in a to memo to fellow senators, said the remodeling will begin this summer. Gardiner and the rest of the Senate no doubt will tread carefully with their refurb, with the 2010 “Taj Mahal” courthouse controversy still sticking in many memories. Allstate Construction of Tallahassee will do the building, and Hick Nation Architects will do the design. Spitz Inc. of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania will design and build a new ceiling dome modeled after one in the Old Capitol.
JOHN ARMSTRONG FACES ANOTHER CLOSE VOTE ON CONFIRMATION via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times — Armstrong, who is also secretary of the Department of Health, will have his second confirmation hearing in the Senate’s Ethics and Elections Committee … the surgeon general has been under fire for the removal of kids from the Children’s Medical Services program, the repeal of standards for pediatric heart surgery, the slow rollout of medical marijuana and rising HIV infections amid cutbacks to county health departments, highlighted by Times/Herald reporting last month. He cleared his first committee hearing — Health Policy — last week on a 5-4 vote … In Ethics and Elections, he’ll need the support of six senators. The 10-member committee includes six Republicans and four Democrats.
MATT GAETZ INTRODUCES ‘SCALIA AMENDMENT’ via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Gaetz has introduced his own amendment to a judicial term-limits bill that will be before the House … inspired by the debate over naming a successor to the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. That amendment reads in part: “… if a justice of the (state) Supreme Court dies within one year before the term of the governor expires, that justice may not be replaced without the consent of the Florida Senate, until the governor whose term commences after expiration of the term of the governor in office when the justice died appoints a successor justice.”
JARED MOSKOWITZ STILL TRYING TO AMEND JUDICIAL TERM LIMITS BILL via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The measure (HB 197) likely will be dead on arrival when it gets to the Senate. Indeed, the Senate version of the (SB 322) has yet to be heard with three weeks left in the 2016 Legislative Session. Under the legislation, pushed by John Wood of Winter Haven, district court of appeal judges and state Supreme Court justices would be limited to 12 years on the bench, or two six-year terms. But Moskowitz, an attorney and Coral Springs Democrat, is again trying to change the measure, which is on the special order calendar … introducing proposals to: Limit House members to four years in office (two terms) instead of eight. Require state representatives to wait at least two years after they leave office before running for a Florida Senate seat. Limit state Cabinet members (attorney general, chief financial officer, agriculture commissioner) to one four-year term. They were just the first three. Another eight amendments were filed shortly after.
BILL THAT WOULD REDUCE DRIVERS LICENSES SUSPENSIONS IN FLORIDA STALLS IN HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — The bill (HB 207) sponsored by … Daryl Rouson and co-sponsored by Dana Young and Greg Steube, would revise the number of driver’s license suspensions for non-driving-related offenses. “There ought to be some rational relationship between behavior and driver’s license suspensions,” Rouson told members of the Committee. Among those offenses that the bill would remove from a driver’s license suspension including arrests for worthless checks, truancy, graffiti and minor drug possession. “In many instances, the inability to pay fines, reinstatement fees, and costs trap people in a negative cycle, a downward spiral of poverty,” added Rouson. He called it a good policy bill. However, there are “a lot of moving parts” with the bill, the Tampa Bay area lawmaker admitted, referring to such a change in current law would affect Trust accounts, Clerk of the Court offices, and the Dept. of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
BILL MONTFORD PULLS HIS BILL THAT WOULD REQUIRE GAS STATIONS BE ABLE TO PRODUCE RECEIPTS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — Appearing somewhat sheepish about his proposal, Bill Montford stopped his own bill (SB 1148) in a Senate Committee that would have required self-service gas station pumps to have printers in working order to produce receipts. “From hearing from my constituents in the 11 counties that I serve, this is not just a now and then occurrence,” the lawmaker told members of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee. He acknowledged that it wasn’t the most important issue that would come before them, “but I wanted to bring to your attention and to the industry as well.” That mission may have already been accomplished.
***In Marion County alone, the horse industry’s annual economic impact is $2.62 billion and nearly 20,000 jobs — completely dwarfing any Seminole Compact estimates. Totally opposed by horsemen, the “partial decoupling” plan now in play would put horsemen on forced welfare with an artificial “set aside purse pool,” wiping out free enterprise and Florida’s ability to compete for horse racing business with other states. United Florida Horsemen want legislators to know that “Partial Decoupling” is being peddled by casino-only interests, the goal of which is to channel money directly into their corporate bottom lines that would have normally been circulated into Florida’s economy.***
TOUGH BLOG POST OF THE DAY — FLORIDA RACE TRACKS ARE RIPPING OFF THE STATE FOR UNTOLD MILLIONS IN TAX REVENUE via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News — Gulfstream, the same racetrack leading the charge in the Legislature to collect an additional $45 million in revenue to boost prize purses, is the very track leading the charge among pari-mutuel owners to rip off the state of tax revenue. Something, by the way, that’s been going on for at least ten years and probably longer. And what an easy heist it’s been for the tracks. All they have to do is encourage guests to use the advanced deposit wagering system (ADW) — something that allows pari-mutuel bettors to deposit funds into an account, then place their wagers through the Internet or over the phone. Now, there’s nothing wrong with ADW. It was devised for out-of-state, off-track betting. But tracks have figured out they can save themselves sizably by encouraging bettors to use the system at the track itself. That is what allows track owners to skirt state tax laws.
CORRECTION: In yesterday’s edition of Sunburn, Jon Yapo of Foley & Lardner was listed as representing Florida Goodwill Association. Cameron Yarbrough of Gunster is its lobbyist.
BALLARD BUILDING CONSTRUCTION BEGINS via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Construction takes off this week on a 14-month project to build a grand, glassed-in office for Florida super lobbyist Brian Ballard in downtown Tallahassee … staging began on Park Avenue. Expect to see parking spaces blocked as crews prepare to tear down the Florida Homebuilders Association building, located on the southeast corner of Park Avenue and South Monroe Street. Allan Franklin, a project manager at Culpepper Construction, said demolition should begin midweek. Park Avenue and the adjacent sidewalk along South Monroe Street will remain open throughout the duration of the project, slated for an early summer 2017 completion. A detour will be set up around the construction area, and the next three to five weeks will be devoted to demo work. “We’re going to try to not interfere with people working downtown. They’re going to have a really nice building in 14 months,” Franklin said of the project, estimated At $15 million to $20 million.
TWEET SHOT: @Fineout: Is it wrong to say I just don’t think I can wear my seersucker suit in February? It may be 1 legislative tradition killed by early session.
TWEET CHASER: @HalseyBeshears: You are correct sir. Southern tradition dictates no seersucker or linen before Easter.
GOVERNORS CLUB TUESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU — Florida lawmakers returning to a new workweek will be treated to a sumptuous Governors Club buffet spread that includes Creamy Shrimp Creole Soup; GC Club Wrap Board with Chips; Roast Beef & Smoke Gouda, Ham & Swiss, Turkey & Cheddar; Mix Green Salad Bar with Toppings Cole Slaw & Potato Salad; Southern Fried Chicken; Barbeque Pork Ribs; Garlic Salmon with Rice; Green Beans & Carrots; Baked Beans; Loaded Mashed Potatoes, finishing with Apple Crisp and Mini Desserts.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our best friend, top-notch attorney Amanda Taylor.