Sunburn for 3/11 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

***Sunburn is sponsored by Tucker/Hall – one of Florida’s leading public affairs and public relations firms.***

ELECTION DAY IN FLORIDA’S 13TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT!

EMAIL: “The last time I’ll ask you this…” via Alex Sink. That is, until the election this Fall.

CD 13 CONTEST CLOSING WITH APPEALS TO THE MIDDLE via Gregory Giroux of Bloomberg

As David Jolly campaigned for the Republican nomination in a vacant Florida congressional district earlier this year, one of his television ads touted Jolly as “a conservative” in the mold of Republican Bill Young, who died in October after more than 40 years representing the politically competitive Tampa Bay area.

Jolly’s campaign has revived that ad in the final days before the March 11 special election, with one change.

The revised ad omits the word “conservative.”

The two ads are otherwise identical. In both versions, Jolly promises to work for spending cuts, a balanced federal budget, protections for military veterans and the repeal of a 2010 health-care law he says is “a mess of broken promises.” Both versions include the same comments from former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker; Beverly Young, the late congressman’s widow; two military veterans; and Bob Barker, the former “The Price is Right” game-show host.

While the revision to the TV ad is very slight, it calls attention to how Jolly is seeking support from a broader electorate than the Republican voters who made him their nominee in January.

It also could be a reflection of how close the race may be in its final days.

More than 121,000 ballots have already been returned to the Pinellas County elections office. The candidates and outside groups will spend more than $12.5 million on the race.

ROMANO: VOTERS HAVE A REAL CHOICE FOR FIRST TIME IN 60 YEARS via John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times

This is where the Republican Party finds itself today. After six decades of dominance in Pinellas County’s congressional district, Republicans are staring at a rare challenge.

Today’s special election featuring Jolly and Sink is expected to be close, and by itself that is a drastic change from what voters around here are accustomed to seeing.

Not since William Cramer narrowly beat incumbent Courtney Campbell in 1954 has this election been decided by less than 12 points.

Over the next 29 elections, Democrats were lucky to log even 40 percent of the vote. And that includes eight times when they didn’t bother to put a candidate on the ballot.

Swing voters, independent voters, disenfranchised voters. They will all matter. Supporters of Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby will have an impact, too.

So do yourself a favor, and vote as if it’s 1954 again. Forget the televised ads. They were mostly garbage on both sides. Forget about the attack mailers and the self-serving groups behind them.

It’s important because, for the first time in 60 years, Pinellas voters are making a choice instead of rubber-stamping a candidate.

FINAL PPP CD 13 POLL GIVES ALEX SINK NARROW 3-POINT LEAD Full blog post here

Sink maintains a tight 3-point lead over Jolly in the final Public Policy Polling survey … Sink leads Jolly 48 to 45 percent, with Libertarian Lucas Overby receiving 6 percent. Two percent remain undecided.

The former Democratic state CFO broke out with an early lead, getting 52 percent of those who already voted, compared to 45 percent for Jolly. The PPP survey also found that 60 percent of those who say they will vote have already done so.

Independents have balanced out the registered Republican advantage in CD 13, where Sink receives strong support from independent voters — 61 percent, compared to 27 for Jolly.

THE TIMES’ PREDICTION via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

“We had been arguing that the Republican lead in mail-in votes cast was below where Republican nominee David Jolly needed it to be, but there’s no question after the past five days he heads into election day with the momentum and with some wind at his back (Just as Obama had in 2012 when early voting was much stronger than in this election).

“A giant question is turnout. Republicans working with Jolly expect that by the time polls close … around 170,000 people will have voted – about half as many as voted in the 2012 presidential election. If that’s accurate, Jolly probably is on track to win.

“We assume Sink will win more independent votes than Jolly and that she will win more Republicans than Jolly wins Democrats, though still not a great many.

:So here’s my prediction for tomorrow: Toss a coin, and you’ll have as good a shot at picking the winner as by analyzing the votes cast so far.”

WHY CD 13 IS STILL A TOSSUP via Nathan Gonzales of Roll Call

Even though polling continues to show a neck-and-neck race, many Democrats are privately and cautiously confident that Sink will prevail, based on her performance with absentee ballots (compared to Democrats who have won the district in the past) and polling of the outstanding voters.

But there is enough uncertainty to keep the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating of race as a Tossup.

Over the last month, the polling in the race has been remarkably consistent, as it has had Sink and Jolly within the margin of error. And the polls have shown the undecided vote between 7 and 9 points. That is significant when the candidates are within a point or two of each other.

There is one certainty in the race: the winning party will overplay the results, the losing party underplays it, and the lessons from the election will likely be somewhere in the middle.

Special elections can be bellwethers — except when they’re not. In 2008, Democrats won a trio of competitive special elections before gaining 21 more seats that November and adding to the party’s House majority. In May 2010, Democrats won a supposedly bellwether special election in Pennsylvania’s 12th District six months before losing 63 seats in the House.

IT’S ALSO ELECTION IN HOUSE DISTRICT 44 WHERE…

2 REPUBLICANS FACE OFF IN PRIMARY TO FILL PRECOURT’S HOUSE SEAT via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel

Two GOP candidates are squaring off for the seat formerly held by Rep. Steve Precourt.

Eric Eisnaugle is a 37-year-old lawyer at an Orlando law firm who has been airing television ads for weeks and has his eye on a leadership position in Tallahassee. Vicky Bell is a 64-year-old English-composition professor at Valencia College who has no campaign website and said she is running because the Florida Legislature already has too many lawyers and too few women.

Both have political experience. Eisnaugle served two terms in the House, from 2008 until 2012. He agreed to step aside for Precourt when the Legislature redrew boundaries and the two were drawn into the same district. Bell served a four-year term, also from 2008 until 2012, on the Orange County School Board.

The results could reverberate far beyond House District 44, which includes Windermere, Winter Garden, Dr. Phillips and Horizons West. That’s because Eisnaugle is widely seen as a top contender to become speaker of the Florida House if he is elected this spring — and keeps getting re-elected subsequently through 2020.

Eisnaugle and Bell share many of the same positions. Both candidates say they would oppose new casinos of any kind in Florida. Both also say they oppose accepting $51 billion in Medicaid-expansion money from the federal government.

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IN CD 2, NEW POLL SHOWS STATISTICAL DEAD HEAT 

The race between Democrat Gwen Graham and incumbent Rep. Steve Southerland is neck-and-neck, according to a recent internal poll from Graham’s campaign.

The poll of Florida’s 2nd district, from Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, finds Southerland leading by 2 points, 42 percent to 40 percent – well within the poll’s 4.4-percent margin of error.

Southerland, who won reelection by 6 points in 2012, is one of Democrats’ top House targets this year. Graham, the daughter of former Sen. Bob Graham, is a highly touted Democratic recruit.

Asked if they’d like to reelect Southerland or would prefer someone new, just 36 percent said they wanted to reelect the incumbent Republican; just under half, 49 percent, said it’s time for someone new.

“Based on these numbers, it’s clear that Congressman Steve Southerland’s extreme agenda has alienated large segments of the North Florida electorate,” said Graham’s campaign manager Julia Gill Woodward. “Between Southerland’s low job ratings and lower favorability, this race is poised to move decisively in Graham’s direction as both campaigns engage in paid communication.”

See the polling memo here.

MUST-READ PROFILE: THE BROTHERS DIAZ-BALART via Ben Terris of the Washington Post

For the Diaz-Balarts, dealing with the issue [of immigration] is practically the family business. Lincoln, 59, spent 18 years in Congress, helping organize a bipartisan group of lawmakers that met to draft legislation. Today, Mario, 52, has taken on a lead role in a Republican conference that can’t quite figure out how to handle the issue. A third brother, Jose, has the role of documenting the whole thing. His job as the lead anchor of the Spanish-language channel Telemundo has him speaking about the issue on television to millions of viewers each week. Just last week, Jose, 53, sat down with President Obama for a testy interview about the president’s struggling reputation among Latino voters.

… As exiles forced from their home in Cuba, nobody can say that the Diaz-Balarts didn’t go through difficulties with immigration. But they are products of a generous policy that allowed hundreds of thousands of Cubans to live in the United States in the 1960s and ’70s. These days, the brothers are bringing to the forefront the fact that millions of others haven’t been given the same easy passage that their family enjoyed….

… “Before Rafael Diaz-Balart – the patriarch of the family – became the chief critic of Fidel Castro, he was Fidel’s brother-in-law. The two attended school together in Cuba and were close for a time, and Castro married Rafael’s sister, Mirta. The friendship didn’t last (and neither did the marriage).

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CAPITOL PROTESTERS TARGET RICK SCOTT, STAND YOUR GROUND via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

The Rev. Al Sharpton was joined by Trayvon Martin’s parents and more than 1,000 protesters who marched a few blocks to the Florida Capitol demanding repeal of the state’s stand your ground self-defense law.

Gov. Rick Scott and Republican leaders who helped pass the 2005 law were targeted for defeat this fall by many speakers, who said it was important for Florida to undo the controversial law that has been since embraced by some two-dozen states.

Without a repeal, organizers said a boycott against a pair of Florida symbols, Tropicana Orange Juice and Walt Disney World, would be revived. The boycott was first attempted last summer after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of the 17-year-old Martin in Sanford.

Along with Martin’s parents, attending the protest was the mother of Jordan Davis, black, 17-year-old shot dead in Jacksonville by a white man following an argument over loud music. While stand your ground wasn’t used by Michael Dunn, Davis’ shooter, or Zimmerman, both men argued that they fired in self-defense.

Stand your ground allows residents to use deadly force to protect themselves. Before these new laws emerged, people who felt threatened outside their homes were required to flee an attacker if they could, before using force to defend themselves.

SCOTT’S CAMPAIGN CALLS HUGE DONATION A MISTAKE via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press

There’s a bit of a $500,000 mystery associated with the re-election campaign of Gov. Scott.

That’s how much money Florida Crystals, a leading sugar producer founded by one of the state’s politically prominent families, was reported to have given a political organization set up to help the campaign of the Republican incumbent.

The half-million-dollar check to the organization called Let’s Get to Work was one of the largest the group reported receiving last year.

But state records no longer list the sizable donation.

John French, an attorney and chairman of the group, called the listing of the donation an “accounting error” and a “mistake.”

When pressed for additional information, French said that people who log contributions and wire transfers “mistook some information.” He added that “there was never a $500,000 check” and that state records as well as Let’s Get to Work’s website were corrected once the mistake was discovered.

A spokesman for Florida Crystals also called it an “accounting error.” The privately owned company is run by the Fanjul family.

GOV. SCOTT, FIRST COAST POLITICAL LEADERS SHOWCASE JAXPORT INVESTMENTS via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News

Gov. Scott, U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, and Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown reached across party lines to showcase the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility (ICTF) project at the Dames Point Marine Terminal, part of the JaxPort system. The new system will allow quicker cargo transfer and is estimated to create more than 340 construction jobs and lead to hundreds of jobs in the future. The project relies on both federal and state funding.

The project — which drew $20 million from the state and $10 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation — also garnered the praise of several state legislators, including Rep. Lake Ray, one of the leading experts in the Legislature on ports issues.

“This project is the next step in making JaxPort a key gateway for international trade and logistics,” Ray said. “We appreciate the governor’s support in accomplishing our vision.”

DEMOCRATIC HOPEFUL PERRY THURSTON NETS NEARLY $100K IN AG RACE Full blog post here

Democratic State Rep. Perry Thurston announced raising $67,098 in his Attorney General campaign from the beginning of February until the start of the legislative session.

These totals are more than triple the campaign’s previous best month, bringing the total raised to “just under $100,000.”

As well as tripling the amount raised, Thurston also tripled the number of individual donors, with 135 new supporters contributing an average of $50.

Thurston’s also have a small “burn rate” with expenditures less than 7 percent of the total raised.

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BILL COULD HELP DISNEY WITH MAGICBAND DESIGN via Jason Garcia and Jim Stratton of the Orlando Sentinel

Walt Disney World is once again leading a lobbying effort to strengthen penalties on theme-park ticket fraud and to ensure the protections also apply to its microchip-embedded MagicBands, the all-in-one tickets, hotel-room keys and credit cards that are a central element of the resort’s billion-dollar MyMagic+ project.

The bill it’s pushing in the Legislature also could help Disney in another subtle way, too.

Under current law, it is illegal for someone to resell a multi-park or multi-day theme-park ticket after it has already been used once — but only as long as a phrase such as “non-transferable; must be used by the same person on all days” is printed on the pass. So Disney has been forced to have a half-dozen lines of legalese printed on its current MagicBands, which are manufactured in China.

The bill Disney is asking state lawmakers to approve would eliminate that requirement. Instead, multi-day or multi-park theme-park passes would be presumed non-transferable unless the theme-park says otherwise on the ticket or on its website.

The result: Disney could drop the unsightly disclaimer from its otherwise-sleek MagicBands, which have a minimalist design and are adorned by little other than a silhouette of Mickey Mouse’s head. And that could also mean substantial savings in printing costs for the resort, which ultimately hopes to have all of its visitors equipped with the high-tech bracelets.

MARCO RUBIO CITES STALLED UBER MIAMI EFFORT AS EXAMPLE OF REGULATIONS THAT UPSET YOUNG VOTERS via Patricia Mazzei of theMiami Herald

The stalled proposal to bring luxury-car mobile-dispatcher Uber to Miami has caught the eye of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Rubio, a Republican, used the anecdote as an example of the type of regulations that upset young people who might otherwise be OK with more government involvement in the economy.

Students at the class he teaches at Florida International University debated the issue recently, Rubio said at a forum organized by the Jack Kemp Foundation at Google’s Washington D.C. headquarters. Two county commissioners concerned about protecting the taxicab industry blocked legislation that would allow Uber and its competitors to operate in Miami.

MIAMI DOLPHINS WANT TO SWAP $4 MILLION TAX BILL FOR PRIVATELY FUNDED STADIUM RENOVATION via Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald

The Miami Dolphins want to stop paying property taxes for Sun Life Stadium in exchange for privately funding a $350 million renovation, a deal that would put South Florida in the running again for Super Bowls but also endanger about $3.8 million that funds schools, libraries and other government services, according to people familiar with the talks.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez met with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross about two weeks ago, and said he would insist the team find a way for the arrangement not to dent the budgets of the School Board or Miami Gardens, where Sun Life Stadium is the city’s top taxpayer. Under the proposal, Sun Life would revert to county ownership and be free of property taxes, in the same way that the county-owned homes of the Miami Marlins and the Miami Heat are government facilities and exempt from taxation.

LAWMAKERS STILL HAVE HOPE FOR SPEEDWAY BILL via Andrew Gant of the Daytona Beach News-Journal

The campaign to shift $2 million a year in state sales tax revenue to Daytona International Speedway is back, pacing through state Senate committees but running under caution in the state House.

The bills — Sen. Dorothy Hukill’s SB 208 in the Senate and Rep. David Santiago’s HB 127 in the House — are the latest proposals that would pay the expanding Speedway up to $60 million over 30 years. The idea isn’t new; it emerged but failed to build enough support from other lawmakers last year. This year, its proponents are trying again.

Hukill’s bill requires the Speedway to invest $250 million in its renovation, which is far below the estimated $400 million cost of the project known as Daytona Rising. It also requires paid attendance of more than 100,000 a year, which the Speedway easily surpasses.

The bill hasn’t kept the same pace in the House, where Speaker Will Weatherford has said he doesn’t plan on setting aside any money for professional sports stadiums this year.

He instead favors a bill that would set up a competitive process for sports-stadium sales-tax rebates. That bill has already won a favorable vote from the House Economic Affairs committee.

But Hukill is promoting her bill as an economic driver, arguing the Speedway’s ongoing expansion will create jobs and modernize the racetrack for a new generation of fans coming to Daytona.

***Florida should stand up for innovation and consumer choice as the State considers a future that fosters highly-efficient, technology-enabled transportation solutions for consumers and drivers. Uber is a technology platform that operates in over 80 cities in 31 countries. Through a smartphone app, Uber allows riders to seamlessly connect with drivers, making cities more accessible and creating more business opportunities for drivers. Hundreds of thousands of Florida residents and visitors have opened the Uber app in search of efficient, reliable transportation options, but anti-competitive regulations are leaving cities like Miami, Orlando and Tampa behind, at Floridians’ expense. #MoveFLForward***

59TH ANNUAL CAPITOL PRESS SKITS TONIGHT

It’s the night when the media lampoons the Legislature and the governor, and the governor and Legislature may take a few shots back. It’s sometimes at least mildly funny, and there are adult beverages. More importantly, it pays for a scholarship fund for future journalists to make sure there continue to be people to put on the skits.

APPOINTED: Daniel Doyle Jr. to the Board of Governors of the State University System.

APPOINTED: Bernardo Navarro, Armando Bucelo and Helen Aguirre Ferre to the Miami Dade College District Board of Trustees.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Lauren’s Kids founder Lauren Book will hold a press conference March 11 on the steps of the Florida Capitol to kick off her fifth annual 1,500-mile “Walk in My Shoes” statewide journey to boost awareness of sexual abuse.

RETAILERS PUSH LAWMAKERS ON SALES-TAX HOLIDAYS, OTHER ISSUES via Sara Clarke of the Orlando Sentinel

Consumers could get an extra few days of tax-free shopping this year if Florida’s Retail Federation has its way.

They’re also seeking to loosen rules for pharmacists at places such as CVS and Walgreens and continue to oppose activists who want state laws on labeling genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in grocery products.

Retailers support the revival of a sales tax holiday on hurricane-preparedness items, as well as a 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday, expanded from the current three days. Both proposals have already been included in Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget.

The tax holidays will save taxpayers about $82.5 million — or cost that much from state coffers, depending on your perspective. Retailers also are supporting a sales tax holiday on Energy Star and WaterSense appliances, part of a proposal floated by Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.

The issue of whether online retailers should pay sales tax comes up every year – with brick and mortar stores arguing they are at a disadvantage to online retailers who don’t charge consumers state sales tax.

It’s a subject that has yet to be resolved in Tallahassee, and this year might not be any different.

The lack of movement in Tallahassee doesn’t mean the issue won’t get resolved: Federal lawmakers are taking it up as part of the Marketplace Fairness Act, a law that would allow states to compel online retailers to collect state sales tax, provided those states simplify their tax laws first. Florida retailers would like to see state legislators pass a resolution in support of that federal legislation.

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BRAD DRAKE CRACKS $111K MARK FOR HD 5 EFFORT Full blog post here

Drake raised $111,635 in February for the seat containing Walton, Holmes, Jackson, and Washington Counties, as well as part of Bay County.

The former Republican House representative now has more than $150,000 cash on hand, over $95,000 more than any other opponent. GOP candidate Jan Hooks raised $6,825 in February, for a total of $56,075.

More than three-quarters of donations (77 percent) received from contributors within HD 5 were under $100, indicating a “groundswell of local support,” according to a statement released by Drake’s campaign.

Drake has also gathered 702 petition signatures, 70 percent of the required 996 to qualify for the 2014 ballot.

RICHARD DENAPOLI SUBMITS MORE THAN ENOUGH PETITIONS TO QUALIFY HD 74 BALLOT

Former prosecutor and longtime GOP leader Richard DeNapoli announced he will submit petitions to qualify for the November ballot in House District 74, becoming the first candidate to receive enough petitions.

“Our team reached this goal today through direct voter contact. Each voter who signed a petition was contacted by someone from our team and chose to sign, DeNapoli said in a statement. “It is a testament to hard work, a positive message, and a firm grasp on the issues important to voters that this milestone was achieved. The overwhelming show of support – both at the grassroots through petitions and financially – is very energizing.”

JACK LATVALA, WILTON SIMPSON TOP $80K IN FEBRUARY

Sens. Jack Latvala and Wilton Simpson each surpassed $80,000 in February contributions for their fall re-election bids, according to Florida Division of Elections reports.

Latvala raised $87,590, for a total $389,350 for his Pinellas County Senate District 20 campaign. Simpson also raised $80,000, for an overall total of $429,176 in House District 18, covering Hernando County and much of Pasco and Sumter counties.

Sen. Tom Lee also had a solid February with $61,575, bringing his total to $313,800. Lee is seeking re-election in Hillsborough County House District 24. These numbers do not count any money raised by affiliated political committees that could have raised money on the candidate’s behalf.

THANK YOU, CHRISTINA JOHNSON: On 3 Public Relations presents its comprehensive data on Florida’s statewide and legislative campaign finance reports for everything raised and spent through February 28.  The M2 information, which covers activities February 1-28, was due to the Florida Division of Elections by midnight. Go here to access the latest information, including the top House and Senate fundraisers this cycle.

EVAN JENNE RECIEVES BACKING FROM TWO BROWARD LEADERS FOR HD 99 BID

Democratic State Sen. Oscar Braynon and Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis announced their support of former State Rep. Evan Jenne in his run for the House District 99 seat held by term-limited Democrat Elaine Schwartz.

Braynon currently serves Senate District 36, which covers parts of Broward, and Miami-Dade counties.

The Dania Beach Democrat was redistricted out of his House District 100 seat in 2012 — two years before term limits — and made an unsuccessful bid for the Broward County Commission.

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4TH FLOOR FILES talks to Ron Book about Lauren’s Kids, Sine Die, and Olympic torches. Here’s the file on Ron.

NEW ON THE TWITTERS: Lobbyist @CandaceEricks

SOUTH FLORIDA LAW FIRM EMERGING AS POLITICAL PLAYER

A South Florida law firm has emerged as a potential political player. Over the past three months, Koch Parafinczuk & Wolf made two separate donations to the Republican Party of Florida, the first for $15,000 and the next for $25,000.

Based in Fort Lauderdale and with offices statewide, Koch Parafinczuk & Wolf is a burgeoning defense firm with a strong focus on property insurance defense. So who is behind Koch Parafinczuk & Wolf? The firm is run by Jason Wolf and Justin Parafinczuk, and their practice went from four lawyers when they opened three years ago, to 15 lawyers today.

Political interest in Koch Parafinczuk & Wolf is growing, and that tends to be a trend that slopes upward quite quickly. In other words, it is hard to drop that many bucks on the RPOF without plenty of other candidates and committees taking note.

Koch Parafinczuk & Wolf recently signed with one of Tallahassee’s finest lobbying firms, Capital City Consulting, to up their political ante and provide representation for their interests. No doubt, Nick Iarossi and Ken Granger will be making good on that promise. It appears South Florida has a new growing law firm with strong political ties.

CONTEXT FLORIDA: MINORITY JUDGES, FOOD INSPECTIONS, TALLAHASSEE IS ON AND “SILVER LINING” IN CD 13

On Context Florida: In writing a separate opinion on excluding an undocumented immigrant from admission to the Florida Bar, state Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga draws some parallels between Jose Godinez-Samperio and his own life, according to Martin Dyckman. Food-service inspections may soon return to the Florida Department of Health, after more than 20 years as part of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs (DAC), says Marc Yacht. The gavel in Tallahassee is down, writes former State Sen. John Grant, and the race is on. The clouded CD 13 race could have a silver lining, Daniel Tilson predicts.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

COMCAST ‘DOUBLING DOWN’ ON THEME PARK BUSINESS via Bob Fernandez of the Philadelphia Enquirer

Comcast Corp., hungry for revenue and profit growth beyond its core telecommunications business, is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into theme parks in California and Florida and doing what few other U.S. companies have the financial muscle to do – challenge Walt Disney Co.’s tourism business.

Comcast acquired Universal Orlando Resorts as part of its deal for NBCUniversal in 2011, just as Universal was reaping huge attendance gains from the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride.

This summer, Comcast will open a new Harry Potter ride and Potter-themed area at its second theme park, Universal Studios Florida, which will share space with the original on the same 750-acre Universal complex.

To keep ticket-buying visitors for extra days, the cable-TV company is financing what it calls the largest hotel construction project in North America: the 1,800-room, 1960s-themed Cabana Bay Beach Resort – think of the biggest Wildwood hotel you know and imagine it stretching over multiple football fields.

Once fully opened later this year, Cabana Bay will boost Universal’s hotel room count in Orlando by 75 percent, to 4,200 rooms from 2,400 – with a potential goal, according to NBCUniversal head Steve Burke, of 10,000 to 15,000 hotel rooms over time.

MICROSOFT IS USING YOUR DATA TO TARGET POLITICAL ADS ON XBOX LIVE via Brian Fung of the Washington Post

Microsoft is trying to persuade politicians to take out targeted ads on Xbox Live, Skype, MSN and other company platforms as midterm elections begin heating up around the country. To plug the idea, Microsoft officials handed out promotional materials Thursday at CPAC, the annual conference for conservatives.

It’s the latest move by tech companies to seize a piece of the lucrative political ad market. The ads, which would appear on the Xbox Live dashboard and other Microsoft products, combine Microsoft user IDs and other public data to build a profile of Xbox users. Campaigns can then blast ads to selected demographic categories, or to specific congressional districts. And if the campaign brings its own list of voter e-mail addresses, Microsoft can match the additional data with individual customer accounts for even more accurate voter targeting.

The image of white male teens as the stereotypical average gamer is something of a myth; Microsoft says that of its 25 million Xbox Live subscribers in the United States, 38 percent are women. Forty percent are married, and more than half have children. Those numbers are important, because they represent key demographics that are among the most contested in political races. Microsoft is particularly aggressive in selling its ability to reach women, Latinos and millennials; across the company’s other platforms, such as MSN, Microsoft has developed consumer categories like “Ciudad Strivers” and “Nuevo Horizons” that attempt to describe a set of characteristics including age, type of residence and income level. At a time when virtually all politicians are resorting to microtargeting, this technology could help Microsoft become a major player in the advertising space.

Multiple Microsoft officials declined to comment for this story.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Rep. Doug Broxson. Celebrating today is Amy Ritter, Emily Thoemke and former Times reporter and now TIA spox Janet Zink (one of Sunburn’s favorite people).

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.