Sunburn for 10/28 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

TRAVIS BLANTON TEXTS FROM WEST AFRICA: “Woke up this a.m. and looked for Sunburn to read on email and it wasn’t there. Thought it strange. Then realize it was 3:30 a.m. back home so gave you a hall pass.”

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Campaign contribution limits, which have long been set at $500, will go up on Friday to $1,000 or $3,000, depending on the type of race.  Debates will continue this week about a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow medical marijuana, as state economists seek input from agencies and other experts to estimate the fiscal impacts of the measure. Other panels will meet to discuss gaming, higher education, tobacco taxes, immigration reform and abortion rules. The Parole Commission will consider cases, the Demographic Estimating Conference will look at Florida’s population, and the Enterprise Florida Board will meet. The week ends with Gov. Scott taking off for a trade mission to Japan.


What findings will the Financial Impact Estimating Conference determine at its workshop on Tuesday to discuss a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize medical marijuana?

What will the numbers look like when several state agencies hold a series of briefings on Wednesday about their 2014-15 legislative budget requests?

Which side of gambling debate will dominate the Senate Gaming Committee’s hearing in Lakeland where it will take public input about gaming issues?

Who will write the first $3,000 check to a statewide candidate once campaign contributions to political candidates increase Friday?

What will be on Gov. Rick Scott’s agenda as he leads a delegation from Enterprise Florida to Japan for a week-long trade mission beginning Saturday?

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FOR OBAMA, HEALTH CARE WOES MAY HAVE STAYING POWER via Julice Pace of the Associated Press

For nearly five years, Republicans have struggled to make a scandal stick to President Obama’s White House. One by one, the controversies — … Solyndra, Benghazi, and Fast and Furious — hit a fever pitch, then faded away. But … health care failures are tangible for millions of Americans and can be experienced by anyone with Internet access. The law itself is more closely associated with Obama personally … The longer the technical problems persist, the more likely they are to affect the delicate balance of enrollees needed in the insurance marketplace in order to keep costs down. … “It says a lot about Republicans that their focus here is not on helping Americans get insured, but on making political hay of this mess,” said Dan Pfeiffer, Obama’s senior adviser.

GONE TIL NOVEMBER via Sam Baker of National Journal will be operating “smoothly” by Nov. 30, says Jeff Zients, the former White House budget director who is now overseeing the effort to get the enrollment process working as intended. QSSI—the company that built a massive “data hub” for the health care law’s exchanges–will take the lead on coordinating repairs to the site. That decision appears to rectify one of the main complaints about the initial launch: that Health and Human Services put itself in charge of pulling together contractors’ work, rather than appointing one contractor to oversee the whole project. 


Even if the administration hits its deadline, it will still leave the uninsured on a tight timely to get coverage. Dec. 15 is the last day to buy insurance that takes effect on Jan. 1. The administration is betting (or hoping) that the rollout glitches won’t undermine the end goal of the mandate: to ensure enough young, healthy people join to make up for the expensive customers insurance companies are now legally required to cover. Time will tell.

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JEB BUSH LOOKS STEADY IN NH AS 2016 LOOMS via Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News 

In New Hampshire, home of the first presidential primary, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida stands just below the first tier of candidates in the potential field of Republican presidential hopefuls in 2016.

The University of New Hampshire (UNH) and WMUR released the Granite State poll this week, which found Bush, who is considered for a possible White House run in 2016, firmly in the second tier in the Granite State.

 U.S. Sen. Rand Paul leads the pack in New Hampshire with 17 percent, edging Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey who follows with 16 percent. The second tier consists of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan who takes third with 9 percent, followed by Bush with 8 percent. Former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown whose name was floated as a possible Republican candidate in New Hampshire, gets 7 percent, followed by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz with 6 percent.

The rest of the field trails in low single digits. Bush’s old ally U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio takes 4 percent, tying him with former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin wins 2 percent while Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has the support of 1 percent. Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, U.S. Rep. Peter King, and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, all lag behind with less than 1 percent.

Unlike Rubio, whose support has dropped during the year, or Paul and Christie who have seen their support move up in New Hampshire, Bush has been fairly steady in the Granite State. Bush has been steady in New Hampshire based on UNH and WMUR Granite State polls released throughout 2013. Back in February and April, Bush stood at 5 percent in New Hampshire. In July, he moved up to 10 percent.


Sen. Rubio carefully managed his opposition to the health care law during the government shutdown but with that over and the Obamacare website a technological mess, he’s going full throttle.

The Florida Republican has been all over national TV news, calling for delays in the law because of the problems. At the same time he’s expressing concern for people trying to sign up, Rubio is not backing away from broader desires to dismantle the law. His actions represent a shift in direction of the GOP, which was badly hurt by the shutdown but sees Obamacare as its No. 1 target.

And Rubio is putting himself back into the spotlight as Sen. Ted Cruz has taken the brunt of criticism for the party’s plummeting public approval. When hundreds of activists descend on Capitol Hill next week in an attempt to revive talks about immigration reform, Rubio, who played a lead role earlier this year, will be focused on health care.

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A FAMILY AFFAIR via The News-Press

Amid reports the late GOP Rep. Bill Young’s widow, son or brother might enter the race to succeed him, a new independent analysis says it’s not that rare in Florida for relatives of former lawmakers to serve in Congress.

If a Young family member won, it would continue a tradition of sorts.

Thirteen of the state’s 132 U.S. representatives since statehood had family members who previously had served in the House or Senate, according to a review of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress by Smart Politics.

The 27-member Florida U.S. House delegation has three members with kin who previously served in Congress (down from five during the 111th Congress just a few years ago), according to Smart Politics.

Another could join next year. Democrat Gwen Graham, daughter of former Sen. Bob Graham, is running against Republican incumbent Rep. Steve Southerland.


(P)olitical strategists and candidates are grappling with the realities of finding someone else to represent the constituents whose interests he watched over for 42 years. 

That process is likely to be complicated by a drastically compressed campaign schedule, the practical and financial complications of running two elections within months of each other and the added pressure of filling Young’s shoes under a national spotlight, attracted by the implications of a high-profile fight for a congressional seat that hasn’t been competitive in decades.

… The special election to fill the remainder of Young’s term needs to be held before the 2014 regular election for his District 13 seat. The qualifying for that election ends in May. A primary follows in August, and the general is in November.

That sets a tight time frame for the special election that’s riddled with potential political pitfalls for candidates, as well for as Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who has to set the date.

“It’ll be a perfect storm of a special election,” said Republican political consultant Sarah Bascom. “If you consider the time frame, if you consider the environment.”

… There are few restrictions on when the election can take place. The governor has to set the start and end dates of the candidate qualifying period, though there are no restrictions on its length. Florida law also requires a minimum of two weeks between the qualifying deadline and the primary for the special election and another two weeks between the election.

Because of the lingering sentiment following the recent government shutdown, Scott may wait to schedule a special election to give Republicans a better chance.

“On the other hand, the governor can’t leave a seat open,” said University of South Florida political scientist Susan MacManus.


The rumor mill has been working overtime trying to second-guess who will be running for Young’s seat. Now entering the fray as a credible Democratic candidate is Rev. Dr. Manuel Sykes, president of the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP.

Working the room at a recent Pinellas County Democratic fundraiser, were two people floated as possibilities for the newly available Florida’s 13th congressional district — former state CFO Alex Sink and attorney Jessica Ehrlich.

Sink’s appearance at the event was further evidence that she is considering vying for Young’s seat. If Sink does run, she would be joining Ehrlich, who has been campaigning unopposed for the 2014 race.  

It was Sykes, however, that made some waves.

Sykes was overheard saying he would add his name to the race for Young’s seat, but only if Ehrlich draws another opponent.

TO RETAKE U.S. HOUSE, DEMOCRATS NEED FLORIDA via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Any hope national Democrats have in regaining the majority of seats in the U.S. House rests squarely on the shoulders of Florida Democrats.

… “Democrats need a net gain of at least two seats in Florida to get back to the majority,” said Nathan Gonzales, a political analyst for the Rothenberg Political Report.

That was a daunting task just two months ago as Democrats began their recruiting efforts to find challengers. But over those last 60 days, thanks in part to the perceived dysfunction in Washington, Democrats have watched their field of opportunity grow. A district in more conservative North Florida and another in Pinellas County look more attainable, and some party leaders think their more vulnerable members are a little more secure now.

“The shutdown crystallized people’s frustration with Washington,” said Gwen Graham, one of the party’s best hopes to regain one of the seats.

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CRIST GETS BIG WELCOME AT DEM. CONCLAVE via Bill Cotterell of the Florida Current

Crist got an enthusiastic welcome from Florida Democratic Party delegates Friday night and said he feels comfortable about running for governor next year as a Democrat.

Crist shook hands, slapped backs, posed for pictures — even spent some time with Mickey and Minnie Mouse in a hallway outside a conference room where he had huddled privately with state party officials on the first evening of the party’s state conference. 

“Democrats are great, I love them,” Crist told reporters. “Floridians are special — very bipartisan, very open-minded.”

He added, “I’ve got so many wonderful new friends. I’m truly blessed by that.” As for his old friends, Crist said, “Oh, they’re ready for this. Let’s not kid around.”

HOW IT PLAYEDMiami Herald, “Florida Democrats conference becomes Charlie Crist show – Charlie Crist could barely walk through the crowd without stopping to greet, hug and mug for pictures” …. Tampa Bay Times, ” Charlie Crist center of attention at Florida Democratic Party conference – And backers of Rich, a former state senator, are miffed” … Huffington Post, “Charlie Crist Plots His Comeback As A Democrat – The union delegates — and stalwart Democrats — wanted autographs, pictures, hugs and even kisses from the former Republican governor” … WFTV Orlando, Charlie Crist hints at governor run as Democrat – Florida Democrats are looking for someone to lead them out of the political wilderness” …  News Press, Pragmatic Florida Democrats back Crist – Down the hall, gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich, a lifelong Democrat and former state lawmaker who served as Senate Minority Leader, didn’t get nearly the rock-star reception as Crist”… The Florida Current, “Former Gov. Charlie Crist gets big welcome at Democratic conclave – even spent some time with Mickey and Minnie Mouse in a hallway outside a conference room where he had huddled privately with state party officials” … Sarasota Herald-Tribune, “Crist works crowd at Democrats’ rally – Republicans have kept up their attacks on Crist heading into the three-day conference”.

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CRIST WILL MAKE IT OFFICIAL NEXT MONDAY via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Charlie Crist will make it official Nov. 4 in St. Petersburg, his hometown. … (Crist) will declare his intentions that Monday morning in downtown Straub Park. That’s near where he announced in 2010 that he was leaving the GOP to run for U.S. Senate as an independent.

TWEET, TWEET: @MaryEllenKlas: Hmm. If you announced you’re going to announce, isn’t that announcing? 

RUBIO: CRIST IS RUNNING OUT OF PARTIES via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

“There will be plenty of time to analyze his record as the governor. Obviously I have well documented policy differences with former Gov. Crist,” said Rubio. “My only observation is that I don’t know of anyone who in over a decade has run as a Republican, an independent and a Democrat. He’s running out of parties.”

Rubio said he’s supporting Gov. Scott’s re-election. “I think he’ll have a good record that he can defend.” 


Nelson stayed on script when asked whether he was satisfied with a Democratic field for governor headed by former Republican Charlie Crist and longshot hopeful Nan Rich.

“I have no plans to run for governor and I have no intention of running for governor,” Nelson said, repeating the oblique statement he’s been making for months.

But he added, “The state’s going into a ditch. The state is going in the wrong direction.”

Nelson, elected last fall to a third term, insisted that he has plenty to do in the U.S. Senate.

But he was quick to show off a familiarity with state issues still hot for Democrats: The Republican Legislature’s rejection of Medicaid expansion, Gov. Scott’s turnback of high-speed rail, and even a recent Public Service Commission ruling that will have customers pay millions for the failures of Duke Energy’s Crystal River nuclear plant.

“Where’s the leadership?” an exasperated Nelson said.

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Just days after comparing the tea party to the Ku Klux Klan, Florida’s most-outspoken Democratic Congressman … likened some Republicans to Confederate flag-waving “bigots.”

Grayson made his comments during a mock reading of a fake Republican Party agenda in which he suggested conservatives were also gay marriage-bashing gun nuts.

“At 8:30 a.m., the morning breakout sessions,” Grayson said, reading the made-up GOP agenda. “Ballroom A: the bigots. Ballroom B: the paranoids. And Ballroom C, the largest group of all: the gullible.”

DEMOCRATS LOOK TO 3 ELECTIONSvia Lloyd Dunkelberger of The Ledger

The outcome of three political races in the Tampa Bay area may be a … prognosticator of the Democrats’ future.

One race has already been decided. Amanda Murphy, a Democrat, narrowly beat Republican Bill Gunter for a state House seat in western Pasco County that was previously held by a Republican. It, in and of itself, may not be much of a predictor.

The next race to be decided will be the Nov. 5 election for the mayor of St. Petersburg. Again it seems to be shaping up as something of a proxy fight between Scott, who has endorsed Mayor Bill Foster, and Crist, who has endorsed former state Rep. Rick Kriseman, a Democrat.

The final race will involve a special election to decide who will replace U.S. Rep. Bill Young, a Republican, in his Pinellas County seat. Scott has yet to set the election dates that were necessitated by Young’s recent death.

… If the Democrats can follow up their victory in the Pasco House race with wins in St. Petersburg and Young’s seat, they can make a strong case that 2014 may well be trending their way.

PERRY THURSTON GETS INTO AG RACE via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida

House Minority Leader Perry Thurston announced he is running for attorney general, opening a Democratic primary in the race to unseat incumbent GOP Pam Bondi.

… Thurston said he’s got a proven track record raising money and winning elections. House Democrats number 45, the most since 1998. Democrat Amanda Murphy just picked up a GOP seat in a highly contested Pasco County contest this month.

… Thurston, a criminal defense and public finance lawyer, sidestepped questions about whether Sheldon is too old-school to get the nomination.

“I wouldn’t want to say that, but I think that we need to be moving forward. The idea is to move forward as we look at the way Florida is structured now, and that’s what we’ll be focused on,” Thurston said.

Just a few moments later, Sheldon was told that Thurston threw his hat into the race and spurred a primary.

“Obviously, you prefer not having one. But the Democratic party has always been a party that’s willing to contest issues and have a discussion. I’m confident that when the primary’s over, this is going to be a united party,” Sheldon said.

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Florida’s commander in chief walked onto the stage to the thumping beat of a 1990s electronic pop hit.

“I’ve got the power!” blared the song by Snap.

When the music stopped, Gov. Rick Scott launched into an address that aimed to tell a crowd of 360 Hernando County Republicans what he has done with his power over the last three years and why he should keep it.

The governor’s keynote speech at the county party’s annual Reagan Day Dinner — $75 for general admission, $175 for access to a VIP reception with Scott — was a hybrid of sorts: part warmup for his re-election campaign, part rallying cry for his party.

“What you believe in — limited government, lower taxes and less regulation — works, and it works big,” Scott said.

Looking relaxed even when the public address system belched deafening feedback, Scott recalled his humble beginnings and his accomplishments in the business world. He touted Florida’s budget surplus, the drop in the unemployment rate and the cuts to state regulation. He took jabs at the federal government for failing to balance a budget and vowed to cut $500 million in taxes and fees in next year’s budget.

“I’m working hard to make sure this is the greatest state in the country,” he said.

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APPOINTED: Gloria Fernandez to the Broward College District Board of Trustees.


Sheriff Scott Israel shares that bipartisan hearings are an “important first step” in fixing Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, and applauds Sens. Chris Smith and David Simmons for heading these efforts. Then, Jim McClellan relates one of his favorite memories: a night in 1992 when a bill exempting ostrich feed from sales tax was pending on Gov. Chiles desk; and Rick Outzen argues that “it’s time we challenge the popular notion that the purpose of our state government is to create jobs.” Finally, Cary McMullen writes a powerful and important piece on reactions following the suicide of 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick who had been bullied by two other teens. In this, McMullen explores what does — and doesn’t — constitute justice for Rebecca. 

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Florida State is facing a facilities challenge in its quest to become a top 25 university. While it’s nothing to joke about, FSU finds itself literally between a rock and a hard — make that bricks-and-mortar — place. With Public Education Capital Outlay funds almost non-existent for new buildings and money scare to maintain existing facilities, FSU administrators are worried that they are not going to be able to attract top-flight faculty because of outdated labs. 

FSU President Eric Barron told the university’s trustees Friday that FSU recently lost one promising young researcher after he received an offer from a rival institution that included a much better lab.

“We have preeminence money, but as we are merrily moving on to the top 25, facilities will be the brick wall we will hit,” Barron said.

Florida lawmakers earlier this year created preeminent universities, earmarking $15 million per year for each of the next five years for FSU and University of Florida in their attempt to move up in the national rankings. UF was No. 17 and FSU No. 42 among public institutions when the bill was approved; they are now No. 12 and No. 40, respectively.

But the preeminence money cannot be used to turn 50-year-old labs into state-of-the art research facilities, nor can it be used to turn a blueprint for a $50 million science building into reality.


The Financial Impact Estimating Conference will hold a workshop to discuss a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize medical marijuana. 117 Knott Building, the Capitol. 9 a.m.

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Just around the corner from the poker room and within shouting distance of the greyhound track here at the Mardi Gras Casino, the Amazing Spider-Man slot machine beckons gamblers with its spinning masked superhero and his nemesis the Green Goblin.

At the touch of a button, this Spider-Man can pay out fortunes or, more typically, deplete wallets.

But in the recently renewed battle over casino gambling in Florida this year, the popular Spider-Man slot machine delivers a different sort of jolt altogether. Spider-Man is one of a stable of Marvel superheroes that the Walt Disney Company acquired for $4 billion in 2009 and that continue to appear on slot machines, Internet slot machines and state lottery tickets. The lottery tickets have featured Iron Man and the Avengers.

… Asked whether Disney’s ties to the gambling industry, through Marvel, undercut its position on casino gambling, a Marvel spokeswoman said last week that the company planned to shed its connection to slot machines when the various licensing agreements expire. On Saturday, the spokeswoman added that Marvel had signed its last slot machine deal two years ago. 

Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk and others will begin to disappear from casinos and Internet gambling sites over the next “few years,” the spokeswoman said.


Teacher evaluation programs play an important role in student learning and long-term student outcomes, according to a study released last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass.  The working paper evaluated IMPACT, an aggressive and controversial teacher evaluation and incentive program in D.C. that offers massive bonuses of up to $27,000 for the highest performing teachers and fires the lowest performers. The study found that IMPACT caused more low-performing teachers to leave the school system than would have been expected otherwise. It also improved teaching quality among teachers with both strong and weak initial assessments, as measured by test scores and classroom observations. 

The authors suggest that teacher evaluation programs serve to avoid career-long retention of low-performing teachers and boost the performance of those who do stick around. Numerous other studies find that merit pay alone does not work, suggesting that IMPACT’s carrot and stick approach makes the difference. 

That said, the IMPACT program is far more labor intensive and costly than most evaluation programs.  In it, teachers are evaluated in their classrooms five times a year, with bonus payments for high performers jumping from $3.2 million in 20010 to $8.1 million last year.  It has also been responsible for the terminations of more than 500 teachers. 

“The academic impacts and life lessons of teachers extend far beyond the classroom,” said Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd). “It is important states have fair, strong and comprehensive teacher evaluation systems – ones that include student achievement measures – and this report reinforces that need.”

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Just months after state lawmakers approved a ban on texting while driving, a South Florida senator filed a bill Friday to try to strengthen enforcement. The measure (SB 322 would allow police to stop motorists for texting while driving and give them citations. The law passed earlier this year only allows enforcement as what is known as a “secondary offense.” That means motorists can only be cited for texting while driving if they are pulled over for other reasons. The new law took effect Oct. 1, and Sachs indicated at the time she would file a bill for the 2014 session to try to strengthen enforcement.


House Minority Leader Perry Thurston and Sen. Sachs Beach, will host a town-hall meeting about legislative issues that affect the LGBT — or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — community. Those issues include seeking equal protections in employment, housing and public accommodation and enacting a statewide domestic partnership registry. Wilton Manors City Commission chambers, 2020 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors. 6:30 p.m.


Sachs is once again hoisting legislation that would put tighter regulations on the parasailing industry.

Named the “White-Miskell Act,” the measure (SB 320) would require owners of vessels engaged in commercial parasailing to carry $2 million in bodily injury liability coverage and would prohibit operations when sustained winds are 20 mph or higher, gusts exceed 25 mph, rain or fog reduces visibility to less than a half mile, or a known lightning storm is within seven miles.

Similar measures — opposed by the parasailing industry because of increased insurance costs — failed in 2011, 2012, and 2013. However, the proposal was given more attention after Senate President Don Gaetz heard from his constituents who witnessed two Indiana teens get seriously injured July 1 in Panama City Beach. 


Central Florida is buying its way into good company with the $84 million soccer stadium that Orange County leaders approved this week, which is expected to be enough to score an MLS expansion franchise.

But for a little extra green, the downtown stadium could be elite.

So, even though Orlando boosters were rebuffed by the Legislature last spring when they sought a sales-tax rebate for the stadium, plans are afoot to ask again for $30 million in tax breaks, which could pave the way for the grander $114 million version.

“I think it’s something that’s good for the community, it’s good for the state, and boy, does it help make this city more of a world-class community,” said Sen. David Simmons.

… Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s office says it’s too soon to say when the city would need lawmakers to approve the incentive. Construction on the 18,000-seat stadium isn’t expected to begin until sometime next spring once the city finishes acquiring the land along Church Street in Parramore, a block west of the Amway Center. Construction could take 15 months, with a summer 2015 opening.

“Every option is open to us, so we’ll see,” said Orlando lobbyist Kathy Russell.


A Central Florida senator filed a bill Friday that would allow university direct-support organization boards to meet in private when they discuss donors and research issues. The bill (SB 318), filed by Sen. Kelli Stargel, would create exemptions to the state’s open-meetings law. The exemptions would apply to portions of meetings that involve discussions about donors or potential donors, proposals for research funding or plans for initiating or supporting research. Rep. Cary Pigman has filed a similar measure (HB 115) in the House. 

TWEET, TWEET: @RepJNunez: Great time at Door to Hope Dinner & Reception w/ @JebBush Rep. Jose Oliva, Rep. Jeanette Nuñez and Rep. Dana Young at Biltmore in Coral Gables. #domesticviolenceawareness

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The kick-off party for State Representative Janet Cruz last Thursday was a big success. Two to three hundred people showed up and guests included both high-ranking Democrats and Republicans. Cruz’ party should scare off potential opponents.

REPUBLICAN JIM MATHIEU FILES FOR HD 36 via Rich Shopes of the Tampa Bay Times

Mathieu, a former city attorney and interim city manager, lost a three-way Republican primary in September.

He said he’s running again because he understands the issues and legislative process better than most elected officials.

“And I’m running because the last time the voters didn’t get a choice,” he said.

Mathieu said he was up against a well-funded candidate in Bill Gunter, who poured tens of thousands of dollars into advertising. Voters missed out in hearing more about Mathieu and, as a result, Gunter won the primary.

By filing early, Mathieu can start to raise money to get his message out, plus the election isn’t that far off, he said. The next primary is 10 months away.

“It’s a short season and this will give me more time to put my message out there,” he said.

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ARRIVALS: Look for an announcement this week from Capital City Consulting, recently ranked  by Sunshine State News as the #2 lobbying firm in Florida, that Ashley Mayer will be joining the firm. Mayer recently worked in CFO Jeff Atwater’s Office of Policy, Research and Legislative Affairs and, before that, at lobbying firm Pennington PA.


“It’s my last day at the Sun Sentinel. I’m definitely a little misty eyed, but also excited for new adventures. Many thanks to all the wonderful colleagues I’ve had in Tallahassee, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. Special thanks to Dave Royse for hiring me right out of school for News Service Florida and making me write about the CAT fund on my first day of work. Also, I couldn’t have been luckier than to work with editor Bob Shaw and my bureau buddy Aaron Deslatte for the past two years.”

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to GrayRobinson’s Fred Leonhardt. Celebrating today is the inimitable Alia Faraj-Johnson, as well as Aaron Dietrich and my ol’ professor, Bill Pfeiffer. 


Ever since political cartoonist Thomas Nast first depicted one as the mascot for the Republican Party for Harper’s Weekly in 1870, elephants have been the official symbol of the GOP.

On Tuesday, Tampa Bay Young Republicans took the symbolism one-step further by adopting two elephants from Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.

The baby African elephant sisters — Mpumi and Mavi — are more than just newcomers to the GOP herd; they have become symbols of the TBYR’s commitment to young families and environmental protection.  

“We have a tremendous opportunity to connect our community with one of the premier learning centers in the region by sponsoring the elephant conservation efforts of Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo through interactive educational initiatives & habitat support,” said TBYR Executive Director Lacey Wickline. 

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.