Sunburn for 10/30 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

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Top Obama administration officials came to Capitol Hill Tuesday to explain incidents the White House would prefer not to discuss, but their apologies—such as they were—came with caveats. Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner apologized for the failures of Obamacare’s website but gave few details about what had gone wrong, setting up Wednesday’s showdown between HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and House Republicans. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper conceded “we have made mistakes,” but he insisted the errors belonged to individuals rather than policy problems with the way the government gathers its intelligence. Elsewhere, rumors surfaced of [yet another] potential suitor for BlackBerry: Facebook.


If you want to understand the congressional Republicans who have forced confrontations with Obama on the “fiscal cliff,” the government shutdown and the debt ceiling – and whether those lawmakers might feel encouraged to force more confrontations in the future – you need to understand the economic struggles of the Republicans’ home districts. People in those districts are poorer and more likely to be unemployed than in the nation at large. They have focused their anger about their economic circumstances on Obama, and they want someone, anyone, to make him improve things for them. … Forty-five House Republicans have most consistently pushed their caucus to brinkmanship over the past several years, according to a Washington Post analysis of voting patterns. On average, the economy in the districts those Republicans represent is significantly worse than it is in the nation at large.


An almost unfathomable gap divides public attitudes on basic issues involving gender, race, religion and politics in America, fueled by dramatic ideological and partisan divisions that offer the prospect of more of the bitter political battles that played out in Washington this month.  Among all adults, 53 percent think women have fewer opportunities than men in the workplace. But that ranges from 68 percent of Democrats to 38 percent of Republicans, a difference of 30 percentage points. Comparing the most unlike groups, liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, it’s 76 vs. 35 percent.  Thirty-nine percent of adults say they trust the government in Washington to do what’s right; six in 10 don’t. Apparently reflecting views of the Obama administration, trust peaks at 62 percent of Democrats, as many liberals and 69 percent of liberal Democrats. Just a quarter of Republicans and conservatives, and 18 percent of conservative Republicans, feel the same. 

Another result speaks to alienation more generally: Just 31 percent of Americans overall say “people like you” are well represented in Congress. It peaks among nonwhites and Democrats, but even then just at 47 and 43 percent, respectively – falling to 24 percent of whites and 27 percent of conservatives. 

Another interesting result is that, among Republicans, partisanship trumps gender in views on electing women to Congress: There’s essentially no difference between Republican men and GOP women in calling this a good thing, 22 vs. 24 percent. There is a difference, though, between Democratic men (54 percent see electing more women as a good thing), compared with Democratic women (among whom more, 69 percent, hold this view).

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The parties’ competing political narratives – the dangers of a tea party-controlled party versus the perils of President Obama’s far-reaching health care law – have been thrown into sharp relief the past several weeks. Now each party has something tangible to point to – that touch voters’ lives in concrete ways – to argue that the other should be booted from office. Republican lawmakers who seemed safe are suddenly looking over their shoulders, and Democrats whose election hopes were buoyed by the shutdown have been brought back to earth by the Obamacare mess. Democrats still intend to run against what they call Republican extremism, as they did in 2012. But Republicans’ willingness to shut down the government and bring the nation to the cusp of default, they say, has shown the public what the tea party’s agenda means in real life – government workers paid to sit home for weeks, shuttered national parks, 401(k) accounts at risk.

The GOP still plans to make Obamacare a centerpiece of its midterm strategy … as … in 2012. But the … website, they say, has handed them a powerful piece of evidence to make the case that the federal government should never have thrown itself into the health care business … And they expect the next year to bring more stories … ‘That’s going to be the battleground,’said Wes Anderson, a Republican pollster. ‘Which message is going to be the most salient to voters in the middle? Is it that Republicans are too extreme or that we need to protect the public on Obamacare?’ … Democrats plan to affix the tea party shutdown label even to moderate Republicans who are at odds with that wing … Democrats say they’re prepared to own Obamacare, arguing that voters are more interested in improving the law than more political fights … Democrats running in conservative areas – where the anti-Obamacare GOP offensives will be the most intense – are pushing … to … soften the blow.


Charlie Cook says the 2014 midterm elections may the the GOP’s last chance to take back control of the Senate for years.

“The reason next year is so make-or-break for Senate Republicans is because in 2016, when all of the seats they won in 2010 come up–they netted a six-seat net gain that year–there will be 24 GOP seats up, compared with only 10 for Democrats, leading to some serious Republican overexposure. Seven of the 24 GOP senators up are hailing from states that Obama carried in 2012. After having had plentiful Democratic targets in 2012 and 2014, it will be Republicans in 2016 who will have the most incumbents in the crosshairs.” 

THE HALLOWEEN EMAILS BEGIN: “Congressman Vern Buchanan’s Concerns Ring as Hollow as a Jack-o’-lantern” via Laura Weiner of Americans United for Change.

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ALEX SINK IS IN! via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Alex Sink is running for Congress.

Florida’s former chief financial officer and Democratic gubernatorial nominee on Tuesday confirmed exclusively to the Tampa Bay Times that she is jumping into the race to succeed late Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young in a district covering much of Pinellas County.

Sink, 65, has begun looking for a Pinellas home and said she will move “imminently” into the district from her east Hillsborough home 45 minutes away.

“Washington’s broken. And I, like everybody else I know, is angry and mad about the logjam, about shutting down the government, about not understanding the impact it was going to have on small businesses and people. The people up there just don’t seem to be able to work together,” said Sink, who had considered running for governor again but ruled that out in late September.

“I’m somebody who’s solved problems, has a long history of working with Republicans and Democrats to get things done,” said Sink, who used to run Bank of America’s Florida operations and was the state’s CFO from 2007-11. “I believe I can be an effective advocate for the people of Pinellas County and get to Washington and make a difference.”


Gov. Rick Scott has not yet confirmed a date for the special election in the 13th Congressional District, but according to Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times, a decision will be coming soon.

Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark said she had a conversation with assistant director of the Florida Division of Elections Gary Holland, and the state is considering holding a primary on Jan. 14, 2014 with the general election on March 11.

March 11 is the preferred date since it is also the date of municipal elections in 16 of 24 Pinellas County cities.

“It’s already on the calendar as an election day,” Clark told the Times. “I thanked him (Holland) for contacting me and offering a scenario that works for us.”

At this time, all dates are only suggestions until Scott makes the final decision. Another proposal was a single-day qualifying period held noon Nov. 18 to noon Nov. 19, which would also require the governor’s approval.

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As former Gov. Charlie Crist gears up for a Monday announcement that will almost certainly kick off a campaign to regain his old job, all but forgotten is that the man who currently holds the position hasn’t officially announced his re-election effort.

To be sure, Gov. Rick Scott has left little doubt that he is making a bid for a second term, even if one ignores the recalibrations on policy and politics over the past few months — which critics deride as an effort to make nice with voters.

“Unless my wife tells me she’s dumping me, I’m running for a second term,” Scott told Bay News 9′s “Political Connections” show back in 2011.

And Let’s Get to Work, a fund-raising arm of Scott’s 2010 campaign, has already raised $13 million this year in preparation for what could be one of the most expensive runs in state history. That does away with some of the urgency of setting up the formal fundraising account that will back Scott’s re-election effort.

But Scott has not held a campaign kick-off event, has not formally filed for the office and has yet to select a lieutenant governor, who will serve as his running mate in the 2014 campaign. His first lieutenant governor, former state Rep. Jennifer Carroll, resigned in March.

“There’s just no rush,” said Susie Wiles, who was Scott’s campaign manager in 2010. “He is busy being governor and doing the things he said he would do when was elected the first time.”

The main reason for making an early announcement, to build name identification with voters through the media and campaign ads, doesn’t exist for Scott, who is traveling around the state as governor.

Republican strategist Rick Wilson agreed there’s no hurry for a formal event — if one even comes at all.

“I don’t think there’s a hard requirement that Rick Scott goes out and does a banners-and-bunting announcement,” Wilson said.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will attend the grand opening of National Air Cargo Holdings, Inc. in Orlando. 5955 T G Lee Blvd. Suite 500. 10:00 a.m.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will join AT&T for a jobs announcement in Miami. AT&T Mobility at the Falls Shopping Center; 8888 Southwest 136 Street. 2:45 p.m.


Democrats met this past weekend as they get ready to start their efforts against Rick Scott and Pam Bondi but two prominent Florida Republicans increasingly appear safe for 2014. As Democrats crank up the attacks against Scott and Bondi, Jeff Atwater and Adam Putnam increasingly appear safe from Democratic opponents.

Looking to return to the governor’s mansion and challenging Scott, Charlie Crist dominated the headlines at the convention. Building bridges to his new party. Crist had a good weekend, making a strong impression with Democrats despite his years as a conservative Republican. Even better for Crist, Bill Nelson shows no indication of running and Nan Rich isn’t catching fire.

It’s no secret that Atwater and Putnam are looking down the road at running for higher office. Whether Scott or Crist wins next year, both Atwater and Putnam will be top contenders to be the Republican standard bearer in 2018. One of them could also be a possible candidate for the U.S. Senate if Marco Rubio winds up on the Republican presidential ticket in 2016 or Bill Nelson retires in 2018.

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APPOINTED: Megan Carter to the Hamilton County Development Authority, Clyde Daniel to the Florida Commission on Human Relations; Brian Hamman as a Lee County Commissioner.

REAPPOINTED: Eric Robinson to the Board of Accountancy.  


Dan Krassner suggests that lawmakers should give Enterprise Florida an overhaul, citing issues with open government, ethics and accountability. Then, Peter Schorsch delves into the portrayal of humility to see Charlie Crist sitting on the floor during a meeting of the Black Caucus at the Democrats confab last weekend; and Darryl Paulson writes the second in his series on Obamacare, this time looking at the problems of substance with the law that go well beyond a flawed website. Finally, Martin Dyckman shares history and compares Boston’s Tea Party with today’s movement, suggesting that both serve(d) as fronts “for commercial interests that have a profit motive.”

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


The final version of a comprehensive gambling study commissioned by state lawmakers was released Tuesday—three days earlier than expected.

… (E)xpanding gambling in Florida would have only “a moderately positive impact on the state economy,” the report concluded.

Lawmakers intend to use the study, as well as information from a series of four public workshops, as Florida’s blueprint for growth when it comes to gambling.

That includes whether to allow Las Vegas-style destination casino-resorts. A major gambling bill could come out of the 2014 legislative session.

The final report’s conclusion is excerpted below:

“Overall, Spectrum believes that the expansion of casino gambling, whether on a small scale or very large scale, would have a moderately positive impact on the state economy. This is not to say that the economic impacts are necessarily small in their own right – in fact, under some expansion scenarios the economic modeling shows gains of tens of thousands of direct, indirect and induced jobs – but that the impacts are relative to Florida’s large, statewide economy.

“There would certainly be a net increase in state tax receipts, to the extent that additional gambling opportunities increase tourism and casino taxes are set above sales tax rates. There are likely to be only mild positive impacts on local and statewide employment and wages, however. This is because casinos would not represent a large expansion of their local economies (at least, in larger Florida counties, which we assume would be the most likely sites for any future casino expansion).

“Finally, the social costs of gambling should be kept in mind. However, the evidence suggests that social costs would not change dramatically, especially since gambling opportunities are already widespread across Florida.”


Interactions with insurance companies are the number one drain on physicians’ time and that of their staff members, according to a survey just released by the Florida Medical Association. The FMA’s Business of Medicine Quarterly Index reveals that about one-third of respondents devote more than 20 hours of staff time weekly to interactions with insurers, and a quarter of respondents spend more than 15 staff hours per week requesting prior authorizations from insurers. Nearly 47 percent indicate that at least 20 percent of the procedures or services they provide are subject to prior approval before they are administered.

A strong majority of physicians, 64 percent, have experienced “fail first” or “step therapy” protocols used by insurers to require that the least expensive drug in a class be prescribed to a patient first, even if the physician believes a different drug is medically in the patient’s best interest.  These hoops can be time-consuming and expensive to jump through, to the detriment of patient care.

“The volume of administrative demands on physicians has reached a critical point, and ultimately it cuts into the amount of time they have to care for their patients,” said FMA Executive Vice President Timothy J. Stapleton. “Relieving those burdens is one of the FMA’s top priorities, and we provide our members with direct assistance so that they can focus on patient care instead of paperwork.”

Just over half of survey respondents, 54 percent, treat Medicaid patients, with 46 percent citing low or inadequate reimbursement as the main reason they do not do so.  Another 14 percent cite “too many regulations” as their main barrier to Medicaid participation, and 6 percent cite increased risk of litigation. Close to 58 percent of survey respondents support expansion of the Medicaid program, with both supporters and opponents citing overutilization of emergency departments as a reason for why.

While 74 percent of responding physicians oppose removing current supervision requirements for advanced registered nurse practitioners, just 9 percent responded that fighting such scope of practice expansions is the most important thing the FMA can do at the state level to help them practice medicine.  Consistent with last quarter’s survey, the highest number of respondents (27 percent) state that reducing burdensome regulations is the biggest state policy priority for the FMA, followed by increasing reimbursement from government and private payers (24 percent), and bringing more fairness to the medical liability system (19 percent).


Florida’s consumer confidence fell sharply in October to 71, down seven points from September and its lowest level in nearly two years, according to a new University of Florida survey. 

“This is the lowest reading since December 2011 following the last debt ceiling showdown in August of that same year,” said Chris McCarty, director of UF’s Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “Confidence among Floridians was already declining prior to any indication of a shutdown and debt ceiling debate. However, there is no doubt that confidence in September took a hit as we replayed the events of August 2011, the last time the U.S. was precariously close to a default. Much like the rest of the country Floridians were not happy with the prospect of defaulting on our national debt and a prolonged shutdown of federal services.”

All five components used in the index decreased.  Respondents’ overall consensus over whether they are personally better off financially now than a year ago fell three points to 62. Their expectations of improved personal finances a year from now was 74 — a decline of six points from September.

The survey-takers’ confidence in the U.S. economy over the coming year dropped eight points to 68, as their outlook for the nation’s economic health over the next five years sank two points to 73.  Both components are their lowest level since December 2011. Meanwhile, their view that the present is a good time to buy a big-ticket item, such as a vehicle, fell 11 points to 80. Seniors were the survey’s most pessimistic respondents. Their ratings fell in all five categories with two showing dramatic declines.

The older respondents were likely troubled by the prospect of the federal government defaulting on its debts, which would delay Social Security checks and negatively affect the stock market, hurting retirement accounts, McCarty said. Anxiety over the federal shutdown and debt ceiling problems was not the only cause of October’s confidence decline.  There was also concern over Florida state revenues. Although a surplus is now expected, revenues may be smaller by the beginning of the year if Floridians and tourists decide to spend less, McCarty said.                                                            

Floridians also may see a rise in unemployment in September, especially in the leisure and hospitality sectors, when new statistics, which were delayed by the shutdown, are released next month. Another sign of growing pessimism is the news that the median price of a single-family home fell in September to $170,000 from a post-recession high of $177,500 in July, according to a Florida Association of Realtors study.  The finding is significant because it predates the shutdown.

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Henry Flagler, the oil baron who cut a railroad through Florida and brought Gilded Age glitz to Palm Beach, may also find a place at the state Capitol – 100 years after his death. Legislation filed by two Palm Beach County lawmakers, Rep. Bill Hager and Sen. Joe Abruzzo would clear the way for a privately financed, life-size statue of Flagler in the courtyard between the Capitol building and Historic Capitol.

In a Legislature that has clashed over making key lime the state’s official pie and rejected an attempt to declare the scrub jay the official state bird – the mockingbird retains the title – the bills filed this month likely have a long, politically rocky way to go. But Hager said the time is right. The May 20 centenary of Flagler’s death is still fresh.

“He was an icon of this state,” Hager said. “Nobody else had the kind of impact on Florida that Flagler has had. I can think of no one better to honor at the Capitol.”

Florida was a sparsely settled state, still recovering from the Civil War when Flagler, a founder of Standard Oil, first visited Jacksonville in 1878. A decade later, Flagler began his first major project in the state, building the Hotel Ponce de Leon in St. Augustine. A railroad followed .Flagler built the Hotel Royal Poinciana and The Breakers in Palm Beach and pushed on, extending his Florida East Coast Railroad to sleepy Miami, which locals wanted to name Flagler in his honor. But his most ambitious project, the Over-Sea Railroad, may have changed Florida the most. It was completed in 1912, making land transportation – and tourism – possible as far as Key West.

For starters, the Flagler statue would stand out on the state Capitol grounds, which has been mostly kept free of monuments. There’s one statue for slain law enforcement officers; a small marker honoring Martin Luther King; a monument to Confederate soldiers from Tallahassee’s Leon County; and the oldest memorial, from 1861, to Capt. John Parkhill, killed in 1857 while leading a charge against the Seminole Indians. Attempts to honor Flagler also could trigger some parochial tussling, another quality common to the Legislature.

Some lawmakers could argue that fellow railroad and hotel titan Henry Plant, pivotal to the Tampa area, deserves something. Central Florida lawmakers might make a case for Walt Disney.

Similar sentiments slowed the key lime pie’s elevation. The late, powerful Senate Rules Chairman Dempsey Barron, from the Florida Panhandle, was a fan of sweet potato pie, and that was enough to kill the issue at least one year.

The effort to honor the scrub jay, a threatened, uniquely Florida bird, also was quashed a few years ago when Marion Hammer, longtime lobbyist for the NRA and a mockingbird proponent, fought the proposed switch. Environmentalists still contend her opposition stemmed from their support for stricter gun regulations. But Hammer says that had nothing to do with it.


The Foundation of Associated Industries of Florida (FAIF) will once again host some of the most influential leaders and stakeholders in the future of Florida’s health care system at the 2014 Florida Health Care Affordability Summit, which will take place at the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel in Orlando on January 29-31, 2014. Stemming from its success last year, the Summit will again serve as an open forum to continue the conversation on possible solutions to make Florida healthier based on the guiding principle that quality health care should be affordable and accessible to all. 

Moderating the selected panels throughout the course of the Summit, will be some of the most instrumental members of the Florida Legislature in the creation of health care reform proposals for the 2014 Legislative Session, including: 

·         Senator Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) – Chair, Senate Health Policy Committee
·         Senator Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring) – Chair, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health & Human Services
·         Senator Joe Negron (R-Stuart) – Chair, Senate Committee on Appropriations and Senate Select Committee on Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act
·         Representative Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) – Chair, House Health Innovation Subcommittee
·         Representative Richard Corcoran (R-New Port Richey) – Chair, House Health & Human Services Committee and House Select Committee on Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act
·         Representative Matt Hudson (R-Naples) – Chair, House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee
·         Representative Jose Oliva (R-Miami Lakes) – Chair, House Select Committee on Health Care Workforce Innovation 

“We are honored to once again host the Florida Health Care Affordability Summit to discuss practical, commonsense and business-oriented solutions to help drive the future of Florida’s health care environment,” said Tom Feeney, AIF president and CEO. “Our ultimate goal is to shore up proposals and solutions to help ensure our health care system as a whole is equipped with the right tools, structure and incentives to provide all Floridians with quality, affordable and highly-accessible care when and where they need it. And, just as it did last year, our Summit will serve as the platform for these ideas and methodical discussions to take place.” 

Online registration to attend the 2014 Health Care Affordability Summit is open to the public and accessible at here. For the latest updates on the Summit agenda and events, please visit You can also ‘like’ on Facebook at and follow it on Twitter @HealthCareFL.

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In an internal memorandum to incumbent members of the Florida House seeking re-election, Speaker Designate Steve Crisafulli takes his colleagues to task for failing to meet their individual fundraising goals, while the RPOF’s house campaigns arms is on a record pace in terms of fundraising. 

“… (W)e asked that each of you seeking reelection reach the minimum benchmark of having raised a total of at least $35,000 for your campaigns by September 30,” writes Crisafulli. “Unfortunately, almost half of our conference has raised less than that to date.”

Among those missing the $35K benchmark are Reps. Larry Ahern, Gayle Harrell, Travis Hutson, Larry Metz, Kathleen Peters, Ray Pilon, Keith Perry, Elizabeth Porter, and Jimmie Smith.

According to Crisafulli, the RPOF’s house campaigns arm is on a record fundraising tear, but that “individual Republican Member fundraising is actually declining on average as compared to this time in 2011, and Democratic Members are raising more money on average this year than they were at the same time in 2011.”

“This is a trend that must be broken,” Crisafulli writes.

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HEARING that former Southern Strategy Group partner David Rancourt has signed-up/is signing up to lobby for The Mosaic Company.


Vincent Aldridge: Department of Revenue

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Andy Palmer, Metz Husband & Daughton PA: Truven Health Analytics

Tim Riley, Hopping Green & Sams PA: Ecosystems Insurance Associates, LLC

NEW ON THE TWITTERS: Political consulting giant @RandyCNielsen

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Child gun injuries and deaths have been on the rise, according to a study presented in Orlando on Sunday at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition. The report found that hospitalizations from gunshot wounds increased from 4,270 to 7.730 between 1997 and 2009, with handguns being the most common culprit.  States where greater numbers of people report having unlocked firearms saw greater rates of gun accidents. These stats point to the importance of gun owners adhering strictly to safety measures, namely keeping all firearms unloaded and locked with bullets stored separately, and keys out of reach of children.


Yale law professor Dan Kahan analyzed levels of scientific comprehension of various political groups and found that tea party supporters are slightly more scientifically literate than non-tea party people. Kahan, who admits to not actually knowing a single Tea Party supporter, was surprised.  After all, his hypothesis had told him otherwise, and — without having ever met a tea party supporter in real, live person — he just figured there’d be a “modest negative correlation” between tea party identification and science comprehension. In other words, he assumed, to be a tea party supporter, one would naturally be a scientifically handicapped Luddite. 

Kahan used the industry standards as measures for science literacy. It turns out that tea party supporters are equal to or exceed other in science literacy.  Oops. 

Kahan reacted: “I’ve got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I’d be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension. But then again, I don’t know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party. All my impressions come from watching cable tv — & I don’t watch Fox News very often — and reading the “paper” (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused internet sites like Huffington Post & Politico). I’m a little embarrassed, but mainly I’m just glad that I no longer hold this particular mistaken view.” 

It could have been a learning moment for Kahan to discover that giving a little more credibility to points of view different from his own might be a good thing. Or, at least, to give a little more credibility to the intellect behind those opposing views.  

No such luck. Kahan continued: “Of course, I still subscribe to my various political and moral assessments–all very negative– of what I understand the “Tea Party movement” to stand for.” 

Translation, “They may be okay at science, but they’re still terrible people.” 

Those on the left side of the political spectrum hold no monopoly over the dead end that is unflinching political myopia. 

How do we as Americans point fingers toward Washington, D.C., at a polarized Congress for failure to solve national crises when large groups of us can’t bring ourselves to attempt to understand, listen to, meet, or, (gasp!), befriend our own neighbors?

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Raquel Cisneros.

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.