Sunburn for 10/31 – 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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HOW ARE SUNBURNERS (AND THEIR CHILDREN) CELEBRATING HALLOWEEN?

Alia Faraj-Johnson: “I will be sending you a photo of Peyton dressed as a Ninja, or firefighter, or Mike Wazowski from Monster U.”

Julie Delegal: “Fourteen-year-old Carter Delegal, blond with a pair of white shoes, has fashioned a plain white tee to sport a large letter “S.” (He’ll be salt.) Oh, and yes, he’ll be wearing light colored pants. Didn’t mean to leave them out. My favorite all time costume was my older son dressed in sweats, with a piece of medical tape across his nose. Lest there be any doubt who he was that year, all he had to say was, ‘Yo, Adrianne’! (The daughter will be playing herself–a Floridian attending college in Ohio with a nasty case of Seasonal Affect Disorder.)”

Karen Cyphers: “On the morning of Halloween, my almost 3-year-old is still undecided between being a ballerina or Captain America. There is a chance she will manage to be both. And her big sister Rebecca will turn 4 at 12:13 a.m. on Nov. 1st, likely still dressed as a treat-loving witch.  Good times!”

Mike Griffin, via Twitter: “Watching something very scary. USFs offense at Houston on national TV.”

I LOVE HALLOWEEN-THEMED POLITICAL EMAILS like “Tricking people into not getting health care” from BarackObama.com

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63% THINK KIDS SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO WEAR HALLOWEEN COSTUMES, BRING CANDY TO SCHOOL via Rasmussen Reports

Let them eat cake – or candy, to be more precise.

Some public schools no longer permit students to wear Halloween costumes or bring Halloween candy to school, but 63% of American Adults think both should be allowed. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 27% do not think students should be allowed to do either. Ten percent (10%) are not sure whether costumes should be allowed, and 11% are not sure if kids should be able to bring in candy.

Adults with children in the home are less enthusiastic about allowing Halloween costumes in school than those without kids living with them but are more supportive of bringing in candy.

The survey of 1,000 Adults was conducted on October 27-28, 2013 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

The older the adult, the less likely he or she is to support Halloween costumes and candy in the schools.

Most Americans who think public schools should allow one also think they should allow the other.

Those who plan to dress up for Halloween themselves are far more supportive of letting kids wear costumes to school than those who don’t plan to wear a costume.

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OBAMA’S APPROVAL HITS NEW LOW

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds the popular discontent that engulfed Republicans amid the government shutdown has now washed over President Obama, whose job approval rating has sunk to an all-time low.

Obama saw his job approval fall to 42%, with 51% of respondents disapproving of his performance as president. That marked a drop in his approval rating from 47% in early October and 53% at the end of 2012.

At the same time, more Americans now view Obama negatively than positively, for the first time since he emerged as a national political candidate.

MAJORITY OF AMERICANS DON’T BELONG TO EITHER PARTY

The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds a majority of Americans said they belonged to neither party while 30% said they would prefer an independent or third-party candidate for Congress, more than wanted to vote for a Republican candidate.

Other remarkable findings: The public’s view of the Republican Party has reached another all-time low in the survey, with just 22% seeing the GOP in a positive light and 53% viewing it negatively. 63% of voters want to replace their own member of Congress, which is the highest percentage ever recorded on this question that dates back to 1992.

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SEBELIUS APOLOGIZES FOR SITE ‘DEBACLE’ AT HEARING via Sam Baker of National Journal

In her highly anticipated appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, she took responsibility for the botched rollout of the Obamacare site but also pointed some fingers at the government contractors. She said Verizon’s Terremark unit deserves credit for the site’s recent outages, and blamed the press for hyping up insurance cancellations.

MARCO RUBIO TAKES ANOTHER SHOT AT DELAYING OBAMACARE via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Rubio took to the Senate floor on Wednesday afternoon to propose delaying the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate until the Obamacare website is fixed and certified to be functional.

Rubio argued that if people are unable to sign up for health care coverage because of the website, the government should not hold the threat of fines for not having signed up against people.

“In my opinion, and in the opinion of many Americans, it is unfair,” Rubio said.

As with the previous attempts to repeal or delay Obamacare, Rubio’s motion went no where. U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, responded to Rubio’s motion on the Senate floor. Baucus said Rubio’s motion was inappropriate and only was intended to disrupt implementation of the law. Baucus said there have been problems with the Affordable Care Act, but the Congress needs to be focused on repairing those problems, not disrupting the law further.

“The goal here is to make it work,” Baucus said.

ON INSURANCE PLEDGE, DID OBAMA LIE OR, YET AGAIN, SIMPLY NOT KNOW? Glenn Kessler of Washington Post

Fact checkers at The Washington Post have deemed Obama’s repeated pledge — that Americans would be able to keep their health care if they liked it — a lie deserving of four Pinocchios.

TWEET, TWEET: @RepDanayYoung: Today is a day for firsts: I retweeted posts from @CNN, @washingtonpost & @PolitiFact all critical of Obama.

WHILE WE’RE BLAMING PEOPLE, TRY THE GOP via Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic

Sure, Obama should have said “most” people get to keep their coverage, but Republicans want to force millions of people off their coverage (Medicaid), too.

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ALEX SINK IS RUNNING FOR CONGRESS – DAY 2

AS ALEX SINK ANNOUNCES FOR CONGRESS, GOP’S READY WITH A COUNTERPUNCH via Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News

Former state CFO Alex Sink, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate who came up short against Rick Scott in 2010, announced Wednesday she will run for the open congressional seat that had been held by the late U.S. Rep. Bill Young — and Republicans across the state and nation are on the warpath.  Sink told the Tampa Bay Times she plans to move from her current home outside the district in Hillsborough County to Pinellas County to run for the open seat. Scott has yet to call the special election.

As Sink entered the race, Republicans at the state and national level lined up to take a swing at her Wednesday.

The Republican Party of Florida noted that, when she said she would not seek a rematch with Scott, Sink said, “I have decided that the best way for me to make a positive and lasting impact on our state is to continue the work we’ve started together. I plan to continue my involvement with the Florida Next Foundation, working to build a state of innovation and inspiring the next generation of young Florida leaders.”

The RPOF also insisted that Sink was afraid of taking on Scott again and pointed to a major gaffe she made during a gubernatorial debate when she violated the rules of the contest by looking at her smart phone.

DATES FOR SPECIAL ELECTION SET: Primary is January 14; General is March 11.

FLORIDA GOP EMAIL: “Was Alex Sink Afraid To Take On Rick Scott?”

IN POLL OF CD 13, RICK BAKER AND ALEX SINK ARE CLEAR FAVORITES, WITH SINK ON TOP

 In the choice of Democrats, Sink is the overwhelming favorite in a fictitious primary run, by more than 43 points. Sink gets 63.1 percent backing with Democratic voters, compared to only 19.8 percent for Ehrlich. Someone Else gets 10.0 percent, and 7.2 percent are unsure.

As popular as Sink is in a hypothetical primary, her approval rating is even higher. More than 73 percent of registered Democratic voters have a favorable opinion of Sink, with only 10.8 who view her unfavorably. Around 16 percent are not sure.

SINK RAISED MORE THAN $42,000 IN HER FIRST DAY AS A CANDIDATE according to ActBlue.

JESSICA EHRLICH REMOVED FROM EMILY’S LIST WEBSITE via Abby Livingston of Roll Call

EMILY’s List has removed attorney Jessica Ehrlich from its online page of favored candidates — an ominous sign for the Democrat running in the highly competitive special election for Florida’s 13th District. In May, EMILY’s List put Ehrlich “On the List” — a designation that often serves as a precursor to a candidate receiving a full-blown endorsement from the influential organization that backs female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights.

Her absence from the website suggests that some Democrats are dropping their support of Ehrlich, who is on her second bid for the district. On Wednesday morning, former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink announced her candidacy. Sink is another favorite of EMILY’s List.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel issued a statement crowing about Sink’s entrance into the race on Wednesday morning, but it fell short of a full endorsement. Earlier this month, EmilysList.org posted a link to donate to Ehrlich’s campaign, according to a third-party website that archived the page. The link now says “Access Denied.”

An EMILY’s List spokeswoman declined to comment. Ehrlich’s campaign also declined to comment. A DCCC source clarified that the committee is fully behind Sink in this primary.

SEXIST PRESSURE ON JESSICA EHRLICH TO STEP ASIDE FOR ALEX SINK? via Adam C. Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Jessica Ehrlich, the St. Petersburg lawyer running for a second time for the Congressional District 13 seat held for 42 years by the late CW Bill Young, keeps getting the same question: Will you stay in the race if Alex Sink runs for the Democratic primary too? I asked her that a lot of different ways [Tuesday] before Sink’s announcement, and she repeatedly parsed her words to neither commit to staying in or say she would get out: “Right now I am running for congress as I have been for 21 months now.”

Her campaign adviser, Shannon Marietta, said she wanted me to read an article before speaking to the candidate. She emailed me a piece from Slate headlined, “More Than a Woman: The unwritten and silly rule that only allows one woman to seek office at a time.” The implication, I assume, was that it was sexist to even ask Ehrlich if she would challenge Sink for the Democratic nomination.

Believe me, we would have asked Charlie Justice the same thing.

Ehrlich is no slouch as a candidate, with decent fundraising (She raised nearly $270,000 through September this year and has about $160,000 on hand). And has picked up some prime endorsements, notably AFSCME even with Sink’s name being discussed as a candidate. Asked today for reaction to Sink’s candidacy, the Ehrlich campaign emailed me a news release announcing the endorsement of Ehrlich by the American Postal Workers Union.

STUPID FACEBOOK POST OF THE DAY: “Here is another Charlie Crist liberal Democrat looking for an opportunist move in Pinellas County. She’ll create more fraud in DC like Bank America Mortgages, before She retire. I think she’ll move next door Peter Schorsch and Rick Kriesman. I’ll say 3 stoogies. ;-).”

TWEET, TWEET: @adamsmithtimes: Alex Sink has new cell number w 727 (Pinellas) area code, rather than 813 (Hillsborough).

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: NEW POLL ON GAMBLING IN FLORIDA TO BE UNVEILED TODAY

As Florida lawmakers weigh the question of gaming reform and creating a destination resort in the state, The Tarrance Group on Thursday will unveil the results of a poll of Florida voters on the issue. The poll, commissioned by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, will be released during a media conference call at 11:00 a.m.

POLICY NOTES h/t to The Florida Current

Enterprise Florida Board of Directors: Expected to take up a series of issues, including a proposed salary increase for Enterprise Florida President Gray Swoope. The board meeting will follow a series of committee and task force meetings Wednesday. The Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables. 8:30 a.m.

Florida Supreme Court: Is expected to release opinions at 11 a.m.

Florida Redevelopment Association: Holds its annual conference today and Friday at the Tampa Waterside Marriott, 700 S Florida Ave., Tampa. Details and agendas can be found here.

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APPOINTED: Joseph H. Chancy to the Columbia County Housing Authority.

CONTEXT FLORIDA

Peter Schorsch probes recent columns in the New York Times, Sunshine State News, and the Spectrum report on gaming to conclude that the side winning the casino debate is still a coin-flip.  Then, Mark Ferrulo asks why Rubio is blocking the nomination of Miami-Dade County Circuit Court Judge William Thomas to a seat on the federal bench; and Linda Cunningham writes that the Tea Party movement demonstrates the “unhealed legacy” of the Civil War with the resurrection of “neo-Confederate” rhetoric. Finally, Steve Kurlander makes a perfect example Bill Young and how the 22-term congressman “proved that term limits are not the answer to fixing our broken political system.”

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

EMBRAER BOOSTS BREVARD PRESENCE via Wayne Price of Florida Today

Gov. Scott, in a major jobs announcement for the Space Coast on Tuesday, announced that Brazilian jet maker, Embraer S.A., plans to open an aircraft assembly plant and related facilities at Melbourne International Airport for its twin-engine Legacy 500 and Legacy 450 executive jets. The new project will create 600 direct jobs and add a 250,000-square-foot facility to Embraer’s growing operations on the Space Coast. Embraer already operates the company’s customer center, the Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 assembly plant and paint facility at Melbourne International. Existing operations employ more than 260 people. Also, Embraer plans to open its Engineering and Technology Center in the first half of next year. That center, when fully staffed, will employ about 200 engineers.

Scott said the project, if approved, will generate $28 million in capital investment for equipment. That doesn’t include wages, construction costs and the project’s economic ripples. Representative from the airport authority, the city, the county and Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast predicted fairly quick resolution locally for their parts of the incentive package to Embraer.

NEW LETHAL INJECTION DRUG CHALLENGED via The News Service of Florida

Attorneys for a Death Row inmate are challenging a change in a three-drug cocktail used in executions, contending the state is violating a constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The Department of Corrections last month approved a new protocol that involves using midazolam hydrochloride as a replacement for pentobarbital sodium. The drug, the first of three injections, renders an inmate unconscious.

Florida and other states ran short of pentobarbital because Danish-based manufacturer Lundbeck refused to sell it directly to corrections agencies for use in executions and ordered its distributors to also stop supplying the drug for lethal-injection purposes. But attorneys for Death Row inmate Dane Patrick Abdool filed documents this week in federal court in Jacksonville challenging the state’s use of the new drug and describing the three-drug process as archaic.

“(The) use of midazolam — a short acting drug not used by any other state as the first drug in a three-drug protocol — raises a substantial risk of serious harm,” one of the documents says. “This risk is exacerbated by the use of an execution protocol that, in addition to the deficiencies described above, has not been modified to take into account the ways in which midazolam differs from pentobarbital.”

But in a letter last month to Gov. Rick Scott, Corrections Secretary Michael Crews signed off on the execution process. “The procedure has been reviewed and is compatible with evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society, the concepts of the dignity of man, and advances in science, research, pharmacology, and technology,” Crews wrote. “The process will not involve unnecessary lingering or the unnecessary or wanton infliction of pain and suffering.”

Abdool was sent to Death Row in the 2006 murder of his 17-year-old girlfriend, who was doused with gasoline and set on fire in Orange County.

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LEGISLATIVE LEADERS TAKING MEDICAL MARIJUANA TO COURT via Matt Dixon of the Florida Times-Union

Legislative leaders Wednesday notified the Florida Supreme Court that they will be filing a brief opposing a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana.

House Speaker Will Weatherford of Wesley Chapel and Senate President Don Gaetz of Niceville are concerned the proposed constitutional amendment isn’t about medical marijuana.

It’s about “creating a path in our constitution for marijuana shops on every street corner,” Weatherford said in a statement.

The Legislature’s brief will argue the ballot language is misleading and it does not comply with Florida’s “single-subject” rule, which says a ballot measure can only contain one subject.

The medical marijuana campaign is being organized by People United for Medical Marijuana. The committee’s chairman is well-known trial attorney John Morgan, a Democrat. The group says it’s pushing the initiative to bring “compassionate care” for those with painful illnesses.

REP. GRANT AND SEN. BRANDES SEEK TO REPEAL HPTC

The push to eliminate the Hillsborough County agency that regulates for-hire vehicle companies, such as taxicab, limousine and ambulance operators, is on. A pair of state legislators have confirmed they have submitted a local bill that would allow Hillsborough voters to abolish the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.

Current PTC chairman and county commissioner Victor Crist has been a vocal critic of how the agency has been run but has nevertheless defended its purpose and asked legislators to give him time to fix the troubled agency. Among other things, the PTC conducts criminal background checks on drivers and inspections on for-hire vehicles, performing an important consumer protection, Crist has said. Crist was traveling out of town and could not be reachedWednesday morning.

The agency has faced repeated criticism through the years as mainly serving to prevent new companies from getting into the market to compete with existing permit holders, regardless of the type of for-hire vehicle. Recently, the company Uber has rallied supporters who say the web-based application developer that enables people to book cabs, limos and other cars for hire by their phone or computer has been blocked from entering the market due to the PTC.

SEN. DAVID SIMMONS PROPOSES TAX BREAK FOR MLS ALL-STAR GAME via The News Service of Florida

Sen. David Simmons has his eyes on Florida hosting a Major League Soccer all-star game even though the state hasn’t been home to an MLS club for more than a decade.

With expansion efforts active in Orlando and Miami, Simmons has pitched a proposal (SB 330) that would add the annual soccer friendly to a list of exhibitions and post-season contests in which no admissions tax is charged.

The state already lifts the tax on admissions to all-star games hosted by Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, the National Football League’s championship games and Pro Bowl, and any semifinal game or championship game of a national collegiate tournament. The tax is also lifted for baseball’s pre-All-Star game Home Run Derby and contests prior to the NBA’s All-Star game.

As for the MLS, Simmons was a sponsor of a failed effort (SB 358) during the 2013 legislative session to direct $2 million a year in sales taxes to help the construction of a soccer stadium in Orlando needed to attract an expansion franchise.

A similar proposal may return during either the 2014 or 2015 legislative session as the Orange County Commission on Oct. 22 approved $20 million in tourism taxes for a downtown stadium that is expected to cost $84 million.

Retired soccer star David Beckham is also reportedly working with investors to bring an MLS expansion team to Miami.

SEN. ROB BRADLEY ON LOCAL PENSIONS: ‘TICKING TIMEBOMBS’ via Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News 

Sen. Rob Bradley is co-sponsoring Sen. Jeremy Ring’s bill reforming local government pensions.

“There are four hundred, ninety two police and fire pension plans in the state of Florida. Sixty-one percent of these plans are underfunded,” Bradley said on Wednesday. “When you combine the poor funding ratios with an increasing population of retirees, you have a ticking time bomb on your hands.”

Ring’s bill would ensure local governments with long-term funded ratios below 80 percent use 50 percent of tax revenues to fill the gaps.

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U.S. REP. GUS BILIRAKIS ENDORSES CHRIS SPROWLS FOR HD 65

“No one will do more to assist Florida’s veterans, protect Florida’s seniors, and make our area proud in Tallahassee, than Chris Sprowls,” said Bilirakis. “I’ve known Chris, personally, for years as a tireless advocate for those who wore the uniform. From establishing free Veterans legal assistance programs in law school to pioneering Veterans courts locally, Chris has a special place in his heart for those suffering from PTSD and substance abuse. Chris’ time as a prosecutor also demonstrates his commitment to defending seniors from abuse and violent crime, as well as going after pill mills that are destroying families right here in west Florida. Chris is my friend and I can think of no one better to represent us in Tallahassee.”

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HILLSBOROUGH CIVIL SERVICE PASSES FOR NOW ON HIRING LOBBYIST via the Tampa Bay Times

Hillsborough County Civil Service will not hire a lobbying firm — for now — to battle prospective legislation that could dramatically alter the program. Civil Service Board members voted unanimously among those present Tuesday to delay a decision on hiring a lobbyist at least until they can see what the legislation says specifically. Civil Service fields and screens applications for many local government jobs, serving 21 public agencies. Created by the Legislature, it also establishes job duties and pay ranges and signs off on many transfers and promotions while hearing appeals from employees facing discipline.

Officials including County Administrator Mike Merrill, Tax Collector Doug Belden and Clerk of the Circuit Court Pat Frank are pursuing legislation that would allow them to opt out of all but the disciplinary appeals process. They say many Civil Service rules are inflexible, making it challenging for them to hire people they want for certain jobs and to move them into different roles once on staff, among other complaints. They made a request Tuesday for an Attorney General’s opinion on whether Civil Service has the authority to pay for a lobbyist.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Kimberly Case, Lawrence Sellers, Holland & Knight LLP: National Entertainment Network

Angela Dempsey, Dutko Poole McKinley: Seminole Tribe of Florida

Jonathan Rees: Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services

SPOTTED: The News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam at The Hangar Restaurant in St. Petersburg.

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POISONED PIXIE STIX AND RAZOR BLADES IN THE BABY RUTH: THE TRUTH ABOUT SABOTAGED HALLOWEEN CANDY via Kyle Swenson of Broward/Palm Beach New Times

I’ll never forget Halloween when I was seven years old. After a night of picking up the goods going door-to-door in the neighborhood, I immediately dump my new stash out on the living room floor. A Baby Ruth first. I take those first delicious bites. Suddenly, a sharp pain blitzkriegs my tongue. Next thing I know, a geyser of blood is shooting from my mouth, splashing my Donald Duck costume, turning the carpet into a Jackson Pollock. Mom screams, dad calls 911, I pull from the gooey goodness a razor blade which has just slashed up my mouth. No. That never happened. But you know what did happen, that year and every year? You probably had the same painful routine. After a successful candy campaign, before chowing down, my parents rifled through my take like customs inspectors. Any off-brand candy or shady stuff went in the garbage. It’s a well known urban myth that Halloween brings out the sickos who booby-trap candy with poison and sharp objects.

But are they really out there? Are there actually criminally-minded people looking to enact sugar-coated domestic terrorism on the one night of the year when kids can gobble down candy from strangers.

“Not that we heard of,” was the reply when we put the question to Therese Barbera of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Over at the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Dani Moschella also couldn’t think of a reported instance of tainted candy.

There’s a lot of field work out there online about where this whole tainted candy craze started. According to Snopes.com, there’s only been one reported instance of an actual Halloween candy poisoning. Back in 1974, a Houston eight-year-old named Timothy Marc O’Brya died after ingesting a cyanide-laced Pixie Stix. It turns out the evil bastard being the job was the boy’s own dad, who’d taken out a life insurance policy he was looking to cash out on. The father was convicted and executed for the crime. Otherwise, whenever a child dies suspiciously around Halloween, candy is usually flagged up-front as a possible cause of death — although autopsies almost always prove differently.

In terms of suspicious objects spiking candy, the only reported case of that comes from 2000. Then, a guy named James Joseph Smith in Minneapolis was caught putting needles in Snickers bars. Only one teenager actually bit down on the candy, though, and he was barely scratched from the incident.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my guy Harold Hedrick. Funny. Smart. Hard-working. A real asset in the Senate Majority Office.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.