Sunburn for 4/11 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

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JEB BUSH REMARKS EXPOSE GOP’S IMMIGRATION PROBLEM via Michael Mishak of the Associated Press

With three little words, former Gov. Jeb Bush set off a fury that served as a potent reminder of how difficult the immigration issue remains for his possible presidential ambitions and the Republican Party.

An early GOP establishment favorite, Bush has long urged his fellow Republicans to show more compassion for those who enter the country illegally. But when he described illegal immigration in an interview as an “act of love” by people hoping to provide for their families, the backlash from his own party was swift and stinging.

Some of the party’s most powerful insiders and financiers are concerned immigration could define the coming nominating contest in the way it did in 2012. Like Bush, Texas Gov. Rick Perry was jeered when he implied that his rivals were heartless if they opposed a law that lets some children of undocumented immigrants pay in-state tuition at public colleges.

The Republican National Committee has urged the GOP to embrace an immigration overhaul, but comprehensive legislation remains stalled in Congress. Action is unlikely in an election year with high stakes. All 435 House seats, and 36 in the Senate, are on state ballots. Republicans need to gain only six Senate seats to win majority control from Democrats. The political calculus makes the GOP’s core base of voters critical, so House Republicans want to avoid an immigration fight that could alienate them.

The furor over Bush’s remarks shows the potential perils of picking up the issue, especially in the early voting states that play an outsized role in choosing party nominees. Bush’s “act of love” comment was pithy and provocative enough to stir deep discomfort in a party still searching for a single message on the subject. And it challenged GOP officials to disagree without further alienating a voter group they’re trying to attract.

PRO-CLINTON SUPER PAC RAISES ALMOST $6M via Philip Elliot of the Associated Press

A super PAC urging Hillary Rodham Clinton to run for president says it raised $1.7 million in the first three months of the year, almost all of it from small-dollar donors.

Ready for Hillary on Thursday said more than 22,000 new donors gave money to the self-designated Clinton support network between Jan. 1 and March 31. The average contribution was $53, and 98 percent of it was $100 or less.

Ready for Hillary has been collecting names of those who would support Clinton if she runs in 2016. The super PAC has been focused on building buzz by lining up donors, as others have done.

Since its launch, Ready for Hillary has raised $5.75 million.

The group is independent of a campaign Clinton would launch if she decides to run.

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The House approved along party lines a budget plan that would reach balance in 10 years by cutting taxes, repealing President Obama’s health care law and cutting social programs in favor of the national defense.

“What this budget comes down to is a matter of trust,” said House Budget Committee Paul Ryan, who authored the budget. Republicans put their trust in individual Americans while Democrats put more trust in government, he said. “Who knows better: the people or Washington? We have made our choice with this budget.”

The conservative fiscal blueprint is the final resolution authored by Ryan, who is term-limited as Budget chairman. Like all of his previous efforts, it was approved on a party line vote, 219-205.


U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw: “Americans know best how to spend their own money, not Washington. When they can keep more in their own wallets and bank accounts, they can make the decisions that best suit their needs. That’s why I pushed Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan to include a recommendation in the budget bill for Congress take up FairTax legislation. Americans spend $265 billion dollars and use 6.1 billion hours every year filing tax forms – money that could be better spent investing in a new business, buying a home, or saving for college. With passage of the Republican budget, we are closer to House consideration of a FairTax and replacement of 70,000 pages of outdated code with one, transparent national sales tax on goods and services, administered primarily by the states. This Republican plan balances the budget and lays out a long-term vision to create jobs and grow the economy and provides economic peace of mind for millions of Americans. While tremendous challenges are ahead and much more work to be done, I am proud to support the Path to Prosperity as a step toward a stronger nation.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney: “Our massive national debt poses the gravest threat to the future of our country. For the sake of our children, we have to start making the tough decisions to solve this debt crisis. Our budget cuts wasteful spending, saves Medicare and Social Security for the next generation, and balances within 10 years. It keeps our nation secure by rejecting the President’s proposed cuts to national defense, invests in our future through programs that give our students and workforce access to the knowledge and skills they need to succeed, and reforms the tax code to build an environment where the free market can thrive and create good jobs.”


Several dozen frustrated House conservatives are scheming to infiltrate the GOP leadership next year–possibly by forcing Speaker John Boehner to step aside immediately after November’s midterm elections.

The conservatives’ exasperation with leadership is well known. And now, in discreet dinners at the Capitol Hill Club and in winding, hypothetical-laced email chains, they’re trying to figure out what to do about it. Some say it’s enough to coalesce behind–and start whipping votes for–a single conservative leadership candidate. Others want to cut a deal with Majority Leader Eric Cantor: We’ll back you for speaker if you promise to bring aboard a conservative lieutenant.

But there’s a more audacious option on the table, according to conservatives involved in the deliberations. They say between 40 and 50 members have already committed verbally to electing a new speaker. If those numbers hold, organizers say, they could force Boehner to step aside as speaker in late November, when the incoming GOP conference meets for the first time, by showing him that he won’t have the votes to be reelected in January.


Pinellas County’s newly elected U.S. Rep. David Jolly summed up the reason he voted against the GOP’s Ryan budget proposal, becoming one of just 12 Republicans to do so:

“I simply kept my word,” he said in an interview. And, referring to the number of phone calls he has gotten from media afterward, he quipped: “It’s remarkable how newsworthy it is when a member of Congress keeps their promise.”

Jolly said during his recent campaign that it wouldn’t be fair to change the rules on people who have worked for years believing they would have Medicare in the future.

Jolly said that before the vote, he spoke about his position to Speaker Boehner, House Majority Leader Cantor and Ryan himself.

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After spending her 10th workday on patrol with the Gretna Police Department, Gwen Graham released a statement slamming Congressman Steve Southerland’s vote for the short-sighted Ryan budget — a budget that makes drastic cuts to grants vital to North Florida’s police departments and raises taxes on the middle class all to pay for more tax breaks for big corporations and the ultra wealthy.

On her workday with the Gretna Police Department, Chief Carlos De La Cruz told Graham the federal grants Southerland voted to cut are the “lifeline” that allow North Florida’s rural police departments to survive. Southerland’s vote would cut $4.8 trillion in non-defense spending, including deep cuts to Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants — funding that’s crucial for North Florida’s police departments to hire and train officers and keep our communities safe.


With less than two weeks before Republican voters in Florida’s 19th Congressional District head to the polls for a special election to replace the disgraced Trey Radel, a new poll shows a tight, three-way primary still up for grabs.

According to a new survey from St. Pete Polls, Curt Clawson commands 30 percent of likely voters’ support, while state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto is at 26 percent and former state Rep. Paige Kreegel is at 21 percent. A fourth candidate, Michael Dreikhorn, is getting 11 percent of the vote, while 12 percent of voters say they are undecided.

FT. MYERS NEWS-PRESS ENDORSES BENACQUISTO: “We believe that Benacquisto understands the political process, gets things done in the trenches and can better care for Southwest Florida.”


WTSP-TV/10 News Reporter Preston Rudie is leaving the station to work as Director for Communications for Congressman Jolly.

The Emmy Award winning reporter will be leaving the station at the end of next week.

“For the past 23 years, I’ve been serving the public and helping give a voice to the voiceless as a journalist. I think my years of working in the area and experience covering the issues that affect Pinellas County will help me better serve the people of the 13th District”, Rudie said in a press release issued out by the congressman’s office.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to work with Preston who I truly believe is focused on making our community better. I’m confident he will be an advocate for Pinellas County,” Congressman Jolly said.

Rudie’s departure from WTSP is a blow to the station’s news reporting, but a boon for Jolly as he sets out to try to serve his constituents and, oh yeah, win re-election this fall in what will surely be a fierce battle once again in the district.

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MEDICAID ENROLLMENT RISES 8 PERCENT IN FLORIDA via Kelli Kennedy of the Associated Press

Florida’s Republican lawmakers remain staunchly opposed to expanding Medicaid — a system they’ve repeatedly said is too expensive and doesn’t improve health outcomes. Yet Florida’s Medicaid rolls are expanding under the Affordable Care Act.

That’s because people trying to sign up for health insurance under Obama’s new health law are finding out – to their surprise – that they qualify for Medicaid, the federal health insurance program for the poor.

Some 245,000 Floridians were added to the Medicaid rolls between October and the end of February. That’s a more than 8 percent increase. The state is one of 10 states that accounted for more than 80 percent of the 3 million new Medicaid enrollees under the Affordable Care Act, according to Avalere Health, a market research and consulting firm. But Florida was the only state of the 10, which include California, Oregon and Washington, that didn’t expand Medicaid.

Florida’s newest enrollees include more than 51,000 children, according to health advocacy group Florida CHAIN.

COMMON CORE STANDARDS DIVIDE FLORIDA VOTERS via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News

Common Core continues to divide voters across the state, with a new poll showing Floridians are split over their support for the national education standards.

The Voter Survey Service poll, commissioned by Sunshine State News, found voters equally supported and opposed the standards with 43 percent. Ten percent were undecided.

When the reasons for supporting or opposing the standards were discussed in greater detail, over half — 51 percent — of respondents are opposed to the Common Core State Standards while 43 percent said they support the standards.

Common Core has been making waves over the last year, surrounded by criticism and controversy from a variety of groups, many of whom are against the standards due to concerns of federal overreach, psychological manipulation and data privacy.

James Lee, president of Voter Survey Service, said while there’s no real party divide on Common Core, Republicans oppose the standards more than Democrats by a two-to-one margin.

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Agriculture Commissioner Putnam continues his strong fundraising push for re-election, receiving $300,691 in contributions last month, according to the state Division of Elections.

In total, Putnam raised nearly $1.7 million during March, spending only about $232,000.

Democrat Thad Hamilton, Putnam’s sole opponent, raised $811 in March, for $11,288 overall.

SCOTT OUT RAISES CRIST NEARLY 3 TO 1, BUT ALL SIDES HAPPY via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

The first quarter fundraising number are out and, judging by the announcements from the leading governor’s candidates, everyone is thrilled.

“We have raised more money than any other Democratic candidate for governor at this point in the campaign,” said Charlie Crist on Thursday, after meeting with House Democratic caucus and union members.

“Find someone to high-five,” read an announcment from the Crist campaign as it announced $1.5 million raised in March by both his “Charlie Crist for Florida” political committee and his campaign. The campaign launched in November and it was a record month.

What they didn’t say: they raised $6.1 million for the quarter, nearly a third less than Scott.

Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign is happy too.

“The first quarter and the numbers speak for themselves,” said Matt Moon, campaign spokesman as he announced the campaign’s quarterly totals of $17.1 million.  “We out-raised Charlie Crist’s operation by $11 million.”

What Moon didn’t say: Crist edged Scott in the month of March as Scott raised $1,196,571 for his campaign and $361,910 for “Let’s Get To Work.”

Of course, Crist’s operation notes that the Scott campaign also spent about $4 million in campaign ads during the quarter as well.

Read more here:


In another condensed melding of policy and retail politics, former Gov. Crist appeared in Tallahassee at a rally for solar power.

In 2007, Crist – then a Republican governor – tried to move renewable energy initiatives forward but was blocked by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Greg Blair, spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott, said it was “too bad Crist can’t channel all of his hot air into wind energy to fuel his campaign.”

When asked about the future of alternative energy, Crist responded, “Well, I think it’s gone in the pit. I mean, you know, we don’t hear anything about solar, we don’t hear anything about wind.”


One of Florida’s rising political consultants is joining the Crist campaign today as the former governor’s newest spokesperson.

Eric Conrad is a fourth-generation Floridian who adds to Crist’s team a wealth of experience far beyond his 26 years, bringing with him a long list of campaign successes.

Named one of Florida’s “30 under 30” by SaintPetersBlog, Conrad honed his expertise over nearly a decade with campaigns in both Florida and New York.

A former senior partner at the full service consulting firm WWD Strategies, Conrad also worked with Kevin Cate Communications as well as in a number of public and non-profit sectors.

Among his most significant political experiences were roles in both Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and his 2012 re-election efforts, acting as Deputy Press Secretary in Florida. Later, Conrad became Deputy Communications Director for the Florida Democratic Party.

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A proposal to give tax subsidies annually to more professional sports stadiums got sweeter for Central Florida, as lawmakers added language allowing projects already underway to get at the head of the line for tax dollars.

Both the House and Senate are nearing floor votes on plans to require stadium tax subsidies to go through a new competition process for $13 million in annual sales tax rebates in which the Department of Economic Opportunity reviews and ranks them based on their economic impact.

But the Senate Appropriations Committee amended its stadium bill (SB 1216) Thursday to allow projects started after July 1 to compete for $6 million in annual incentives and not have to return to the full Legislature next year for approval.

That helps Florida’s professional soccer fans kick-start financing for new stadiums in Orlando and Miami, as well as potentially steering money to the Daytona International Speedway expansion.

That potential timesaving is critical for Orlando’s $85 million Major League Soccer stadium and the $400 million Daytona Rising development.

By securing a $1 million sales-tax rebate in the coming fiscal year, Orlando can proceed with a larger, $110 million soccer palace with more amenities.


State versus local control is at stake in a dispute in Tallahassee that pits the taxicab industry against Uber, an app based hired-car service that is trying to gain a foothold in Florida.

A bill filed earlier this year by state Sen. Jeff Brandes would have allowed services such as Uber to set up in cities across the state. The companies contract with independent drivers who have access to the company’s customer base. People use a smart phone to summon a car.

Brandes’ bill, SB 1618, would prohibit local governments from licensing or regulating “chauffeured limousines, chauffeured limousine services, and drivers of chauffeured limousines.”

The St. Petersburg Republican amended his bill so that it now applies only to Hillsborough County — the one county in Florida that has a special district established to regulate taxis, limos, tow truck drivers and other transportation for hire. Local government leaders appoint Hillsborough’s Public Transportation Commission.

Brandes’ bill, with the Hillsborough-only amendment, passed the Senate Transportation Committee 7-2 but not before sparking a regional fight.

TWEET, TWEET: @SteveSchale: In America I should be able to take @Uber to buy a growler from @IntuitionAle

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By law, Florida state lawmakers cannot hold fundraisers during the legislative session, which started March 4.

Therefore, some incumbents went all out in the first three days of March to solicit campaign funds.

Even with the abbreviated timetable, Thrasher was able to knock out an impressive $31,250 last month, for a total of $252,050 to date, according reports from the Division of Elections.

A number of powerful state senators took the opportunity to raise money in the days before the start of the legislative session: Sen. Nancy Detert raised $22,750; Sen. Aaron Bean collected $16,950; Sen. David Simmons had $16,010, and Sen. Greg Evers took in $15,750.


House District 35 GOP hopeful Blaise Ingoglia posted strong fundraising numbers in the last month, with $24,650 in donations during March.

The Spring Hill homebuilder, former tournament poker player and vice chair of the Republican Party of Florida now has collected $133,062 since May 7.

Ingoglia faces Democratic former commissioner Rose Rocco for the seat covering much of Hernando County. Term-limited Republican Rep. Rob Schenck currently holds the seat.

Demonstrating grassroots support for Ingoglia’s campaign, nearly 95 percent off donations in March originated from inside HD 35, many with Brooksville and Spring Hill addresses, according to the Florida Division of Elections website.


 Santiago announced his endorsement of Seefeldt in the upcoming Republican primary for House District 31.

Seefeldt, committee member of the Orange County Republican Executive Committee, seeks to replace term-limited Rep. Bryan Nelson, who has also endorsed Seefeldt.

“As a business woman, conservative activist, and most importantly a mom who has raised a family,” Santiago said, “Terri Seefeldt possesses a skill-set that will be of great benefit for the people of District 31 and the State of Florida. She is the kind of leader we need in Tallahassee.”

“It is an honor to have Representative Santiago’s support,” Seefeldt said in a statement. “He knows the issues that both businesses and families face in Central Florida.”

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The walls between whiskey and Wheaties aren’t tumbling any time soon.

Admitting he didn’t have the votes, Sen. Bill Galvano withdrew from consideration his bill (SB 804) repealing the requirement for retailers – including supermarkets, drugstores and Walmart – to sell hard liquor separately from groceries.

Galvano pulled the measure during the Senate Regulated Industries hearing.

Afterward, he said he ran up against intense lobbying against the bill by chains like ABC Fine Wine and Spirits and by convenience-store interests.

Galvano also noted that a House companion (HB 877) has gotten no traction.

Thirty-four states now allow retail liquor sales without a separation requirement. Florida’s separation law was enacted in 1935, after the repeal of Prohibition but before the modern retail age, making it “archaic,” Galvano said.


Larry Cretul, Rheb Harbison, Cynthia Lorenzo, Richard Reeves, Alan Suskey, Capitol Insight: Cox Media Group

Ron Pierce, Sara Gross, RSA Consulting Group: H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, Inc.

Eric Johnson: Hillsborough Community College

William McDaniel, McDaniel Consulting: Coalition of Florida Camps, Inc.

Jon Moyle, Moyle Law Firm: Panacea Water Front Partners

Alan Suskey, Capitol Insight: Gulf Power Company

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On Context FloridaDaniel Tilson’s latest complaint is with people who prioritize limitless monetary profit over and above social responsibility to Florida. They are vital to what he calls a “tale of two Floridas,” those individuals who see regulations as a hindrance to uncontrolled wealth accumulation and consider taxation to be “Private Enemy No. 1” Telemedicine is the “health care of the future,” writes Tamara Y. Demko, director of the TaxWatch Center for Health and Aging. Strategic thinking is a skill that not only benefits business, but also personal lives, writes Bob Porter, executive director of downtown Orlando’s Executive Development Center. Most people do not manage finances in the same way as they did in 1984, says Pat Neal, but the state of Florida does. It is not just the fact that the current accounting system is inefficient and lacks analytic capabilities; if substantive updates are not made to the Florida Accounting Information Resource (FLAIR) the system is at risk of collapse.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Facing Florida with Mike Vasalinda: Rep. Irv Slosberg and Carol Dover.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Joni James of the Tampa Bay Times, Steve Otto of the Tampa Tribune, Michael Guju of the Pinellas GOP, and Barry Edwards.

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Rep. Dwight Dudley

Political Connections on Orlando’s CF 13: U.S. Rep. John Mica

The Usual Suspects which airs on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Steve Vancore, Gary Yordon and Bob McClure of the James Madison Institute.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Chris Carmody, Rep. Mark Pafford, and Tampa attorney Paul Phillips.

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.