Sunburn for 3/7 – 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.***


The overall findings of a new Washington Post-ABC News poll underscore the degree to which the contest for the GOP nomination in 2016 is as wide open as any in the modern era. The poll found that there is no obvious beneficiary to Christie’s problems within the party or Jeb Bush’s apparent problem with the wider elec­torate. Many of those thinking about running have made little impression on the general public and in some cases they are not even well known among Republicans.

POLL SHOWS HEADWINDS FOR JEB via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

The Washington Post poll suggests trouble for a possible Bush presidential run, with 48 percent of people saying they would definitely not vote for him – “a possible hangover from the presidency of his brother George W. Bush.” Only 32 percent of people said the same for Sen. Marco Rubio.


Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton holds a double-digit lead over Bush in a hypothetical matchup, but half of voters are less likely to vote for Bush because of his family’s history in the White House.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that if the 2016 presidential election were held today, 47% of likely voters would choose Clinton, while 33% would opt for Bush. Fourteen percent prefer some other candidate, while six percent are undecided.

RUBIO’S HAWKISH SIDE COMES OUT AT CPAC via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio called for an assertive U.S. foreign policy during a speech to conservative activists Thursday, sticking to a topic that has recently brought him new prominence and helped rebuild his image with the GOP base.

“Quite frankly, we would much rather just focus on our lives here,” the Florida Republican said at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington, D.C. “But we cannot ignore the reality of who we are. We cannot ignore the global importance of this nation. And we cannot ignore the implications to our future if we fail to step up to this call.”

The well-received speech comes as Rubio has worked to recover from his involvement in comprehensive immigration reform. Conservatives turned against him last year and Rubio has distanced himself from the bill he helped write, focusing on other issues, including ideas aimed at the poor.

Rubio closed his speech by talking about his 2010 Senate race against Charlie Crist (who was mentioned by speakers several times Thursday, drawing requisite booing) and told of how his father, a Cuban immigrant who died of cancer during the election, represented the American Dream.


Rubio’s Victory Committee is hosting a big-donor fundraising reception next week featuring George P. Bush, the up-and-coming GOP candidate for Texas General Land Office Commissioner and son of former Gov. Jeb Bush.

The event begins at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19 with a general reception at the Palm Beach home of investment banker Wilbur Ross and his wife, author and culture columnist Hillary Geary Ross, located at 328 El Vedado Road.

At 7:30 p.m., an exclusive dinner will be at the home of billionaire George Lindemann CEO of the pipeline company Southern Union and his wife, Metropolitan Opera board vice president Frayda Lindemann, located at 1565 N. Ocean Way, Palm Beach.

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U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross jumps into the digital realm with the release of his web video in his re-election drive for Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

The ad highlights the work the Lakeland Republican has accomplished in Washington during his first three years in Congress, as well as outlining future legislative priorities.

The two-minute promotional clip features footage from Ross’ January 21 kickoff tour in Plant City and Lakeland.

Ross faces Democrat Alan Cohn, a former journalist for Tampa ABC station WFTS, for the seat covering northern parts of Hillsborough and Polk County, including suburban Tampa, Brandon, Plant City, Lakeland and Bartow.


Sink released a new digital video — a more positive ad that once again features her father, Kester Sink.

The 30-second “Approve” spot will be one of the last in Florida’s 13th Congressional District race; one that takes a lighter tone than many of the recent attack ads (mostly produced by outside groups) against her opponent, Republican David Jolly. More than $8 million have been spent on ads in the truly swing district CD 13 special election, after the death of long-time U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.

The ad re-emphasizes Sink’s commitment to bring Republicans and Democrats together to “break the gridlock in Washington” and focus on solving problems relevant to Pinellas County residents.

As the CD 13 race enters the final week, more than 110,000 mail-in, and 2,876 in-person, early voter ballots have been cast as of March 6. The special election between Sink, Jolly and libertarian Lucas Overby is Tuesday, march 11.

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Crist’s political committee dramatically outraised Scott’s in February with “Charlie Crist for Florida,” the political committee backing the one-time Republican governor raising more than $800,000, while “Let’s Get to Work,” the committee behind Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election bid” brought in approximately $180,000.

For Crist’s committee, this represents its best haul-to-date the committee has had since its first month of operation. For LGTW, ther must have been a conscience decision to lay off of the accelerator.

It’s also the first time Scott’s committee has outraised Scott’s.

Before this month, Scott’s committee had raised nearly $23 million. Scott just last month started raising money for his campaign account.

Among the checks Crist’s committee collected was a $300,000 contribution from Texas trial attorney Steve Mostyn, In addition to Mostyn’s check, Crist’s committee reeled in a $100,000 check from Levin, Papntonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty, & Proctor, as well as $50,000 donations from The Ferraro Law Firm, P.A., prominent Democratic donor Barbara Stiefel, and F9 investments.

This cash doesn’t include hard money given to Crist’s campaign account. Those reports aren’t due until next week.

Through last month, Crist’s committee had been drawing about a fifth of what “Let’s Get to Work,” the committee behind Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election bid, has been bringing in.


Crist is scheduled to speak Saturday at the annual Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, D.C.

The former Republican-turned-Independent-now Democrat will represent the Democrats and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will represent the Republicans.

ASSIGNMENT EDITOR: Governor Rick Scott will highlight a new PACE Center for Girls that will provide educational and counseling services for young women in Miami. 10:00 a.m.

TWEET, TWEET:  @adeslatte: Since @FLGovScott media gaggles are no longer of any value for quotes/news, I have discovered a new utility: Media Gaggle Selfies!


Kim McDougal, a top education adviser in the governor’s office, has taken over as a adviser for Gov. Rick Scott. She fills the post left vacant when Chris Finkbeiner left the office to join Scott’s reelection campaign.

McDougal will serve two roles, continuing with a focus on education policy, but picking expanded responsibilities with her new title. She will continue to make $116,000.

McDougal, who has been with the state since 1989, has been a mainstay in Florida education policy.  She previously served as an education analyst in former Gov. Jeb Bush’s administration and with the Department of Education

Finkbeiner joins former communications director Melissa Sellers as high-profile staffers leaving the governor’s office to join the campaign. Sellers serves as campaign manager.

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CAPITOL SECURITY RULES WILL STOP OVERNIGHT SIT-INS via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press

New Florida Capitol security rules will prevent overnight protests like the month-long sit-in following George Zimmerman’s acquittal on murder charges.

The rules now prohibit anyone from staying overnight in public areas of the Capitol for any reason.

They also prevent unauthorized people from being in the Capitol outside of normal business hours. When there are legislative sessions or meetings after business hours, the Capitol will be closed to visitors a half hour after the event ends.

Nobody will be allowed to sleep in public areas of the building. A permit will be required to prepare food in hallways or public areas.

The rules were put in place after a group called The Dream Defenders held a month-long protest when Zimmerman was found not guilty for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin.

TWEET, TWEET: @fineout: Asked about why he adopted new Capitol security rules after @Dreamdefenders protest Scott would not say

SPOTTED at the Capitol: Donna Arduin, former budget director for Jeb Bush. H/t to Gary Fineout.


U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is slamming a plan to limit the use of absentee ballot drop-off sites, according to a letter he sent to Sen. Jack Latvala, the Ethics and Elections chairman.

“After enduring numerous fiascos in the recent election cycle, including lines that stretched for hours at early voting sites and at the polls on election day, the last thing Floridians need are laws that make it harder for them to exercise their right to vote,” wrote Nelson, a Democrat.

A committee bill (SB 7068) now under consideration includes a restriction that supervisors of elections only accept absentee ballots at their offices, early voting sites or at a U.S. Post Office.

“I respectfully urge you to reconsider this provision, and to work with elections supervisors in Florida on ways to make it easier – not harder – for citizens to vote,” Nelson wrote to Latvala.


Florida driver’s licenses could soon be as close as a smartphone.

Senate Bill 1272, filed by Transportation chair Sen. Jeff Brandes, was passed unanimously  by the Senate Committee on Transportation.

If enacted, it would make Florida the first state in the nation to implement a digital driver license program. It also requires the licenses issued in a design that allow law enforcement to verify the authenticity of the digital proof.

Among other provisions, SB 1272 will develop autonomous vehicle testing in Florida, embracing the technology reported by the Wall Street Journal as developing faster than expected.


The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee has drafted a bill dealing with online voter registration, absentee ballots and other election issues. Tucked into the 38-page bill is language that would limit the use of absentee ballot dropoff sites by several county election supervisors, most notably Pinellas County’s Deborah Clark.

The Senate bill (SPB 7068) would require voters who cast absentee ballots to return them only to the main or branch office of the supervisor, a polling room at an early voting site, or to an election post office box at a post office. The bill defines a branch office as “a permanent facility of the supervisor and staffed by one or more permanent, full-time employees of the supervisor.”

The legislation was developed by the staff of the committee that is chaired by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

The bill also requires the state to set up a system of online voter registration on a “secure Internet website” by July 1, 2015.

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APPOINTED: Daniel Traver to the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court

APPOINTED: Donald M. “Sonny” McCathran, Jr. to the Hernando County Court.


Telemedicine could save Florida taxpayers as much as $1 billion annually, according to a new report by the nonpartisan watchdog group Florida TaxWatch.

Critical Connections to Care is the latest research to focus on removing barriers preventing healthcare providers from serving patients remotely through telecommunications and the Internet.

However, two issues are holding back the growth of telemedicine — private insurance payments and Medicaid reimbursements. Since insurers do not reimburse providers for remote services, health facilities have no choice but to pick up the costs, which could be prohibitive for new technology.

Lawmakers are beginning to tackle telemedicine in the 2014 legislative session. Both the House and Senate are considering proposals (HB 751 and SPB 7028) to set ground rules for telemedicine in Florida.


After decades as one of the state’s largest property owners, The St. Joe Co. has closed on a deal to sell about 380,000 acres of rural and timber land in North Florida to subsidiaries of a Utah corporation. St. Joe said in a news release Wednesday the $562 million deal involves the majority of the company’s timber lands in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties.

St. Joe continues to own about 185,000 acres. “Management can focus on our core business activities of real estate development in Northwest Florida, including opportunities in the active adult market and expanding our resort and leisure operations,” St. Joe Chief Executive Officer Park Brady said in the release. The Utah corporation, AgReserves, Inc., is an affiliate of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

***Representatives from Florida’s aerospace industry will visit Tallahassee on March 12, 2014, to participate in Florida Space Day and share with legislators the opportunities the industry brings to Florida and the nation’s space program. During Space Day, industry leaders and other aerospace supporters will meet with House and Senate members and Governor Scott, to discuss  growing areas of the state’s $8 billion dollar space industry, and determine the best strategies for leveraging these markets for Florida’s benefit in the years ahead.***

CHRIS SPROWLS BREAKS $132K FOR HD 65 BID Full blog post here

Chris Sprowls continues his blockbuster fundraising effort in the House District 65 race, with the announcement today of another $20,115 for the month of February.

Sprowls now has more than $132,000 in contributions, with over $100,000 cash on hand, in his bid to unseat incumbent Democrat Rep. Carl “Z” Zimmermann. House District 65 covers the cities of Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Palm Harbor and East Lake.

“Everywhere I go, people are clamoring for Representatives who will go to Tallahassee to get things done, not just fill a chair,” Sprowls said in an announcement Thursday. “They want solutions driven leadership and an end to business as usual. They want consumers and middle class taxpayers – who have shouldered the burden of a sluggish economy – put first. They want issues like Flood Insurance, Obamacare failures, and job growth tackled head on.”

“I am truly looking forward to November.”


While the Republican cats are away in Tallahassee, the Democratic mice are coming out to play in a couple of state legislative seats worth watching.

In Northwest Florida, Chipley Democrat Travis Pitts opened a campaign account Wednesday to run in District 5, which will be an open seat because Rep. Marti Coley faces term limits. Former state Representative Brad Drake of DeFuniak Springs, Santa Rosa Beach Realtor Jan Hookss and Wausau Libertarian Karen Barbara Schoen also are seeking the seat.

Also, two Democrats have filed paperwork to run this fall for Pinellas County House seats, adding to crowded fields in the battleground county. As previously reported Scott Orsini opened a campaign account last week to run in House District 69. He joined incumbent Rep. Kathleen Peters, Republican Leo Govoni and Libertarian Randy Taylor.

Meanwhile, Thomas Ryan, has opened a campaign account in House District 67. He joined Democrat Stephen Sarnoff and Republicans Chris Latvala, Christopher Shepard, and Frederick Thomson.

In a South Florida race, Deerfield Beach Republican Kenny Brighton filed paperwork Monday to challenge incumbent Rep. Gwyn Clarke-Reed in House District 92.


Emily Buckley, Rebecca DeLaRosa, The Moya Group: Palm Beach County, Wilderness Quest

Leo DiBenigno, Bryant Miller Olive: Florida Association of Restoration Specialist

James Eaton, Capital Strategies: Florida Association of Community Health Centers

April Money: Workforce Florida, Inc.

Emily Nance, Carl Roth, Frederick Springer, Bryant Miller Olive: AT&T, Computer Sciences Corporation; Datapath Tower, Florida Association of Restoration Specialist, Inovia Consulting Group

Sarah Sanders, Tsamoutales Strategies: InfraManagement Group, LLC

***CoreMessage is a full-service communications and issues advocacy firm with the experience, relationships and expertise to help you get your message out. Connected at the state capitol and throughout Florida, the CoreMessage team unites issues with advocates, messages with media and innovative solutions with traditional tactics to get results. Follow CoreMessage on Twitter and visit them on the Web at***


On Context Florida: Rick Scott’s State of the State address was riddled with inaccuracies and devoid of accountability, says Daniel Tilson. There is a little more of Florida west of Panama City, writes Shannon Nickinson, although you wouldn’t know it in Rick Scott’s State of the State address. Rick Outzen also talks about how the Panhandle often feels like the “redheaded stepchild” of Florida, one who has to share legislative power with the rest of the state. Reason and emotion are the two drivers of decision-making, says Gary Stein, so it is not surprising that advocates for and against medical marijuana try to appeal to both the head and the heart. The people seeking facts and solutions are “heroes”; the others are “zeros.”

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


The FiveThirtyEight editor fits writers into four quadrants: awesome, good journalists, bad sports journalists, and terrible op-ed columnists.

THE NEXT AILES: NEWSMAX’S CHRIS RUDDY PREPS TV RIVAL TO FOX NEWS via Karl Taro Greenfeld of Bloomberg Businessweek

Christopher Ruddy, 49, the chief executive officer and founder of conservative media company Newsmax Media, is giving a tour of his neighborhood in an Acura driven by his chauffeur, Hector. It’s the heart of Florida’s Red Belt. Ann Coulter lives a few blocks away—Ruddy spent New Year’s Eve there. Rush Limbaugh is just across the bridge. Donald Trump, David Koch, Patty Mellon Scaife, and a host of other Republican power brokers have homes across the lagoon in Palm Beach. To live among such conservative heavyweights is one reason Ruddy settled in West Palm Beach; the other is that Florida has no state income tax. The headquarters of Newsmax is here, too, off Okeechobee Boulevard; virtually every Republican presidential candidate makes an obligatory visit.

Newsmax, which had revenue of $104 million in 2013, up from $85 million the year before, is perhaps best known for its namesake, 200,000-circulation monthly magazine. A conservative reimagining of the traditional newsweekly, Newsmax publishes political stories such as “President Obama’s Outrageous Power Grab” and ads for gold coins and hearing aids.

Ruddy has taken Newsmax’s boomer audience, average age 54.7, and figured out how to sell it far more than political news. Newsmax, the corporation, is a smorgasbord of political, health, and financial information, self-help books, and even vitamin supplements constantly pushed through the website and e-mail lists. This eclectic array of products—the company made $46 million in subscription revenue from its 17 newsletters and $6 million from vitamin supplements in 2013—makes Newsmax less of a news business and more of a strange hybrid of the Heritage Foundation and Amway.

It was Amway founder Richard Devos who suggested to Ruddy that Newsmax could sell supplements to his middle-aged audience.


Facing Florida with Mike Vasalinda: The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Dave Hart, Marc Dunbar of Jones Walker P.A., and Bill Cotterell.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on Miami’s CBS 4: Former state Senator Nan Rich.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, former state Senator Paula Dockery, Tampa Bay Times‘ Dan Ruth, and Tampa Tribune‘s William March.

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark

The Usual Suspects which airs on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Steve Vancore, Gary Yordon, and the Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY this weekend to my friend, Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times.


JetBlue Airways announced Thursday that it will add a second daily route connecting Tampa International Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport starting July 2. The new schedule of flights will allow travelers to spend just a few hours at either destination.

Here’s the new schedule: The first flight will leave Tampa at 8:42 a.m. and arrive in Washington, D.C., at 11 a.m. Then it will leave Washington at 11:44 a.m. and arrive in Tampa at 2 p.m.

The second flight of the day will depart Tampa at 1:41 p.m. and land in Washington at 4 p.m., then leave Washington at 5:45 p.m. and arrive in Tampa at 8:06 p.m.

JetBlue said it was able to offer another Tampa-Washington daily flight because it acquired additional takeoff and landing rights that were relinquished in the merger of American Airlines and US Airways. The U.S. Department of Justice approved the merger of the two airlines if they agreed in return to give up a combined 52 round trips, or a total of 104 airport slots.

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.