Sunburn for 4/8 – 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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The rate of uninsured Americans dropped to 15.6 percent in the first quarter of 2014, its lowest point since late 2008.

The uninsured rate dropped 1.5 percent from the fourth quarter of 2013, according to Gallup, which interviewed about 28,000 Americans from Jan. 2 to Feb. 28. The rate has declined for nearly every demographic group, though Hispanics remain the least likely to have health insurance coverage.

Gallup says that the findings suggest the Affordable Care Act is succeeding at getting Americans to sign up for health insurance coverage. President Barack Obama recently announced that 7.1 million Americans have enrolled in coverage under the ACA.

The Gallup survey did not show a high number of young people signing up towards the deadline, which the Obama administration wanted as healthy young enrollees effective subsidize older Americans involved in the exchanges.


Medicare has reversed proposed payment cuts to private health plans in the popular Medicare Advantage program for the second straight year amid strong pushback from health insurers and Capitol Hill.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, after proposing in February a 1.9 percent cut to private plans, said government payments to insurers in the Medicare Advantage program will increase .4 percent on average in 2015. The increase, CMS said, is slightly higher than what insurers had requested.

The reversal comes after a major lobbying effort from the health insurance industry and signals that Republicans would use the cuts to attack Democrats in this year’s midterm elections. The Medicare Advantage program now covers about 16 million seniors, or 30 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries, through private health plans that can offer extra benefits, like wellness plans.

CMS says it reversed the proposed cuts after reconsidering four main factors. The agency actually lowered its assumed Medicare growth rate from -1.9 percent to -3.4 percent, a factor that would lower payments to health plans. Health plans will instead see higher payments because of various Medicare changes to how the agency assesses risk.

Private insurers are paid more per enrollee than Medicare pays for seniors in the traditional program, and the Affordable Care Act aims to eventually close this gap. The president’s health-care law is expected to reduce Medicare Advantage funding by about $156 billion over a decade, according to a 2012 Congressional Budget Office projection.


Congressman Joe Garcia: “Today, I commend the administration for listening to the needs of our nation’s seniors and deciding against the proposed cuts to Medicare – a vital program that provides them with the affordable, high quality health care they deserve. Over the past several weeks, I have been fighting alongside my colleagues to protect Medicare because our seniors deserve to keep what they have earned. They have worked hard for these benefits, and to take it away from them would be just wrong.”

Charlie Crist: “This is good news for Florida seniors and I applaud the President for heeding our calls to fix this issue,”

OBAMA ORDER TO LEAD MIDTERM EQUAL PAY PUSH via Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico

At the White House, President Barack Obama will sign two new executive actions on equal pay as Senate Democrats move for a show-vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act — launching Democrats’ first large-scale coordinated message effort ahead of this year’s midterms.

One of the new executive orders today, Equal Pay Day, will prohibit federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their salaries — a move one White House official called “a critical tool to encourage pay transparency.”

Obama will also sign a presidential memorandum instructing Labor Secretary Tom Perez to create new regulations requiring federal contractors to report salary summary data to the government, including sex and race breakdowns. The hope, according to the White House, is that this will encourage other employers to submit data voluntarily, enabling more targeted government enforcement.

And Obama will make a speech calling on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act — but, like the minimum wage raise for federal contractors Obama announced in his State of the Union in January, the White House official called this new executive order another instance of “leading by example” when Congress won’t act.

Meanwhile, as the Senate Democrats vote, their campaign arm at the DSCC will launch a new “GOP Pay Gap” branding campaign that will include the release of state-by-state data on the pay differences, a high-five figures online advertising campaign, a social media campaign and specified email alerts to supporters tracking the votes.

There’s a reason Democrats are making such a push on equal pay: they say their polls and focus groups are showing them that pressing Republicans on their opposition to the bill is quickly ticking up to be one of their most effective negative messages for persuadable voters this year. According to Democrats who’ve seen the numbers, women respond, men respond — in the same kind of high numbers, no matter where they are around the country.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Today’s meeting of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which will hear testimony from Secretary of State John Kerry. A press release from Sen. Marco Rubio’s office says the Florida Senator will ask Kerry direct questions about Venezuela, Cuba, Ukraine and Russia.

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With House Republicans expected to vote on Paul Ryan‘s spending blueprint, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is paying for web ads and robocalls that single out two of the six Republicans running for the nationally targeted Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 seat of freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy.

Former state Rep. Carl Domino and former Tequesta councilman Calvin Turnquest are the targets of “Don’t Sell Out The Middle Class” web ads that launched last week and automated phone calls beginning today.

The DCCC isn’t revealing how much it’s spending on the campaign, but the effort is noteworthy in two respects: … 1. It suggests that Democrats view Domino and Turnquest as the candidates with the best chance of winning the GOP primary, which also features former Connecticut legislator Alan Schlesinger, nurse Bevery Hires, former police officer Nick Wukoson and software developer Brian Lara. … 2. With President Obama and the Democratic health care law getting low approval ratings, the ads reflect the desire of Democrats to find an issue that puts Republicans on the defensive. Ryan’s proposal to shift Medicare to a premium-support program for future retirees has been unpopular in the past.


As the National Republican Congressional Committee sees it, the relationship between Democrats and Alex Sink goes something like this: They love her, they love her not, they love her …

Over the weekend, John King of CNN reported that Democrats in D.C. are trying to recruit Sink for another run in November for the Florida 13th Congressional District.

In the latest email blast to supporters, NRCC spokesperson Katie Prill points out that these are the same Washington Democrats who trashed Sink after only last month her loss — including the perennial GOP target, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“Pinellas families rejected Alex Sink already once this year for being Nancy Pelosi’s handpicked candidate,” Prill said. “If Sink, the Pelosi-Obamacare supporting candidate, decides to run again this November it will truly be the definition of insanity.”


Huckabee endorsed Benacquisto, joining Sarah Palin as the second nationally known Republican to get behind her with the April 22 primary approaching.

“You can’t argue with Lizbeth’s proven conservative credentials,” Huckabee wrote on Facebook. “She’s a fiscal hawk whose cut taxes, balanced the budget and reduced job-killing regulations in Florida and I know she can cut through the noise and do the same in Washington. Lizbeth’s fought to protect Life and end the scourge of abortion, she’s been a fierce advocate for Florida’s seniors and Veterans, and she has helped lead the fight to crack down on child predator.”

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Scott leads Crist 45 percent to 44 percent, in a new Voter Survey Service poll, commissioned by Sunshine State News. While Scott’s lead is within the margin of error, the poll reveals the Republican holds an important 5 point lead over Crist among Floridians more likely to cast votes in the November election.

“This race, in my opinion, looks very locked in. In other words, it almost looks like a repeat of what we had in the summer of 2010,” said James Lee, president of Voter Survey Service, who described the Scott versus Alex Sink race as a back and forth ping-pong match in polling.

“I almost get the sense we’re headed toward a similar trajectory,” he added.

… Although the overall VSS numbers show Scott and Crist neck-and-neck, the poll finds voter turnout is on Scott’s side. Scott leads 49-42 over Crist with respondents who say they have an excellent or good chance of voting in the November election — numbers outside the margin of error.

MY QUOTE TO SSN: “This should force the Crist campaign to see that the race is still very, very close despite all of the negative press the Governor has endured over the last month.”

TWEET, TWEET: @GrayRohrer: Look at the crosstabs. Do we think +65 demo (Scotts only age group lead) will make up 40% of electorate?


A committee aligned with Gov. Scott announced its third $2 million statewide media buy.

The new ad, paid for by Let’s Get to Work, continues to hammer Democrat Charlie Crist for his support of Obamacare. Much of the attacks from the Scott camp and the Republican Party of Florida has followed that model.

This one focuses on President Barack Obama earning PolitiFacts’ “lie of the year” award for his now famous “if you like your health care plan, you can keep you health care plan.”

PUSHBACK AGAINST SCOTT’S LATEST AD via William March of the Tampa Tribune

Numerous newspapers, including the Tampa Tribune, have labelled that claim false and so has Politifact.

To recap: In the fall of 2012, health insurance company Florida Blue said up to 300,000 of its customers could receive notices that their health insurance plans didn’t comply with the ACA, and therefore would have to be cancelled.

But Florida Blue only ended up sending out 40,000 notices, said Paul Kluding of Florida Blue.

“In actuality, only 40,000 letters were mailed to members with Jan. 1, 2014 effective dates,” Kluding said. “Subsequent notices were sent to these members notifying them that their existing plans would remain active and unchanged through 2014.

Because the ACA mandates were delayed a year, those affected still have until next year to switch plans — and Florida Blue said it would help them find alternatives, or simply put them into a new plan if they didn’t act.

To date, most of the members in our pre-ACA plans have kept their plans.”


Before there is any crowing by Crist’s camp about how much more money its political committee raised in March compared to Scott’s, keep in mind that “Let’s Get To Work,” the political committee backing Scott’s re-elect, transferred in over $27 million to start the month.

It’s also important to keep in mind that Scott’s operation has made it a point the last two months to tout how much money it has raised for the Republican Party of Florida. When you count Scott’s campaign, LGTW, and the RPOF, the Republicans say they’ve raised more than $17 million since the beginning of the year.

That said, Charlie Crist for Florida, the political committee backing Crist had an excellent March, raising $942,870, according to reports posted on its website.

Among the donations are another $200,000 check from Texas legal powerhouse Steve Mostyn, a $100,000 contribution from the Yerrid Law Firm, and, as a show of strength from Obamaword, a $10,000 donation from The Messina Group, the political firm headed by President Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina.

Equity fund manager Bruce Berkowitz dropped another $50K on Crist, as did Floridians for Fairness, the political committee headed by longtime Crist confidante Jay Burmer. Two other law firms also contributed $50,000 to Crist’s committee.

Meanwhile, fundraising for Let’s Get To Work slowed in March, according to the Associated Press’ Gary Fineout. So far, LGTW has pulled in just $359K, including a $100,000 check from U.S. Sugar.  The committee still has to show what it reported during the final days of March.


The Florida Democratic Party is touting the latest voter registration numbers from the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles’ office showing that Republicans now are out-numbered by voters who either belong to third parties or who declare no party affiliation.

Democrats continue to be the dominant bloc in Orange County, though they, too, actually lost a little market share to “no party affiliation.”

The latest numbers, as of late last week showed the county has 298,050 Democrats, making up about 42.3 percent of the electorate. Though there are a couple thousand additional Democrats now, the party’s portion of the county’s electorate has slipped from 42.8 percent in the November, 2012 general election.

Orange County now has 203,584 Republicans, and they make up 28.866 percent of the county’s electorate. That’s an actual reduction of 247 voters since the November 2012 election. In 2012 the Republicans made up 29.5 percent of the county.

The big gains are with the other/no party affiliation voters. There now are 203,632 voters who fall into that camp, 48 more than there are Republicans. Other/NPA voters now represent 28.873 percent of all Orange County voters, up from 27.6 percent in the 2012 election.

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Gov. Scott announced that the state has awarded $8.4 million to more than 80 Palm Beach County schools as part of Florida’s School Recognition Program.

The School Recognition Program, according to a state press release, “acknowledges the quality of public schools by giving financial rewards based on sustained or significantly improved student achievement in reading, mathematics, science and writing. Schools eligible for recognition awards include those receiving an ‘A’ school grade, improving at least one letter grade from the previous year, or improving more than one letter grade and sustaining the improvement the following school year.”

Schools can use the money for faculty or staff bonuses, to purchase educational equipment or materials, or hire temporary staff to help maintain or improve student performance.


Add a new fold into Florida’s growing (or, depending on your orientation on all of this, unraveling) gaming universe: the Poarch Band of Creek Indians has alerted Gov. Scott of their interest to negotiate a gambling compact in the state.

To put this request in context, here’s a gaming facts refresher for the three or so politicos not already involved in one of the many different sides to this fascinating issue:

The Seminole Compact’s exclusive agreement with the Florida, under which they operate slot machines and casino card games in different areas of the state, will expire in July, 2015.

According to federal law, some degree of gaming exclusivity is required in order for states to arrange for revenue sharing with a tribe. Under Florida’s current contract, the state has already brought in $1 billion in revenues shared by the Seminole Tribe since the compact went into effect in January 2008.

The impending expiration of the Seminole Compact has private, non-tribe casinos lining up for a chance to break into Florida’s lucrative gaming market. Among them, multibillion dollar cross-national corporations with strong lobby forces promoting the construction of one of the world’s largest casino resorts on Miami.

Of course, it goes without saying that the Seminole Tribe seeks to keep its hold on real gambling in Florida, and has a roster of expert lobbyists to prove it.

So, who are the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, and to put it bluntly, what gives them the sense that they can compete in this high stakes gaming power struggle?

The Poarch Band is a federally-recognized Indian tribe. They are descendants of a segment of the original Creek Nation, which once covered all of Alabama and Georgia, and who also hold a land trust in Escambia County, Florida. This trust meets the definition of “Indian lands” under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), and is the sole location where the Poarch Band intends to conduct Class III gaming activities under a compact with the state.

For the uninitiated, Class III gaming is the broadest category of gambling activities — not just bingo or social gaming for minimal prizes. Class III includes slot machines, blackjack, craps, and so on.

The Poarch Band operates multiple casinos in Alabama, so they aren’t naive to the process they will face in Florida, or to the industry. But in a state where the Seminole Tribe has objected to things as inane as pay-at-the pump Florida Lotto tickets, it isn’t a shot in the dark to say the Poarch Band will face major opposition.

In the tribe’s letter to Gov. Scott, dated March 24, 2014, tribal chairman Buford L. Rolin requests a meting with a designated negotiations team as soon as possible.

It is unclear whether the governor will oblige.


Figuring out the future of gambling in Florida is now on hold because of secret negotiations over how much of a cut the state will continue to get from the Seminole Tribe’s card games.

In 2010, the state and tribe agreed to a “compact” guaranteeing income to the state – $1 billion over five years – from the tribe’s gambling revenue. That’s in return for granting the tribe exclusive rights to offer blackjack and other card games.

The card-game provision expires in mid-2015. The tribe operates several centers, including Tampa’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

Consideration of overhaul legislation, including a clean-up of laws regulating gambling, has screeched to a halt because lawmakers say it first requires completion of a renegotiated revenue share.

Hanging in the balance, among other things, are billions of dollars of possible investment in the state, including two destination casinos in South Florida that a Senate proposal would have allowed.

And the tribe’s outside counsel has said not to assume that the compact terms will be appreciably better for the state than before.


Even before the ink was dry on the proposed amendment to SB 742 to allow greyhound tracks to operate their poker room and slot machine operations without racing dogs, the state’s economists were hard at work calculating the cost.

The bottom line: economists estimate that by ending the requirement to run 100 live races a year, the state could lose between $78,000 to $336,000 in tax revenue the first year and $121,000 the second year. As tracks raise additional money from inter-track wagering operations, taxes from those operations would start to offset the lost revenue in the third year.

That is the estimate economists agreed to on Friday, before the amendment by Sen. Maria Sachs saw the light of day.

The higher estimate is based on many assumptions — that seven of the 20 dog tracks stop racing completely, one reduces its races by 50 percent and another by 65 percent and the tax rate on intertrack wagering is fixed at 1.28 percent.

The economists assume that if legislators “de-couple” live racing from the other gambling operations, it won’t mean the end to greyhound racing in Florida, just the reduction of it — by an estimated 42 percent.

The Senate Gaming Committee is scheduled to take up a bill Tuesday by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, to require all greyhound tracks to report their injuries. Sachs will be among many of the amendments proposed and it is expected to pass. It’s fate remains uncertain in the House.

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Lori Halbert learned the secret to having voters pay attention to politicians — pair politicos with delicious food.

Halbert, host and creator of Live with Lori, Political Food for Thought, features a unique combination of political talker and how-to cooking show, which highlights Florida’s most influential lawmakers discussing the ins-and-outs of Tallahassee.

And the recipes are pretty tempting, as well.

Filmed at the recent Great American Realtor Day in Tallahassee, Sen. Jack Latvala appears on the latest Live with Lori, now in its fourth season.

The Clearwater Republican took the opportunity to show off a tasty recipe for Arroz Con Pollo (Chicken with Rice) as well as discuss his strategy for funding homeless projects. Latvala has been a long-time champion for the plight of displaced Floridians.

OLD TAX BREAKS HANG ON, EVEN AS NEW ONES PASS via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel

The Florida Legislature is proving this spring that it’s a lot easier to pass a new tax break than it is to get rid of an old one.

Take the high-profile bill that Gov. Scott signed to reduce fees for registering cars in Florida beginning Sept. 1. The tax cut, which Scott plans to make a centerpiece of his re-election campaign this fall, will save the average motorist about $25 a year for each car as it drains nearly $400 million annually from the state treasury.

When lawmakers first proposed that tax cut a year ago, they planned to pay for it by repealing a longstanding tax break for insurance companies that the president of the Florida Senate ridiculed as an “antiquated” industry subsidy. The combined package never made it to a final vote.

But this year’s version — which left the insurance-industry tax break in place — sailed through the Legislature before the halfway point of the annual 60-day session.

Similarly, when lawmakers last year considered new tax breaks for various professional sports teams and leagues across Florida, they paired them with a measure to repeal an old banking-industry tax break that auditors said had become a glaring loophole in Florida’s tax code. The package failed to pass.

Lawmakers are once again weighing sports subsidies this spring. But they haven’t said a thing about the banking tax break.

SENATE ADVANCES AMPED-UP FILM INCENTIVES BILL via Arron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

Losing its luster as a location for filming, Florida is poised to green light a substantially higher investment in the film and entertainment industry.

The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee passed a proposal to double the current $296 million the state has invested in tax credits to encourage television, film and digital productions within the state.

But it also requires counties like Orange and Miami-Dade which dominates the use of the tax-breaks to start kicking in 10 percent of their costs. And it could shake-up the ability of video game maker Electronic Arts, Inc., to dominate use of the incentives.

Besides privatizing the film office, the new re-design on the program would provide an additional $300 million in credits available through 2020 as other states like Georgia have upped their own recruitment efforts.

In order to get the bill moving, the measure also require counties getting the most credits to kick in 10 percent cash contributions to the productions, which Senate Tourism Chair Nancy Detert said was a mandate of the House.

The bill is designed to keep the credits from flying out the door quickly. Central Florida has captured the second-highest number of projects with 87, next to the 175 film, television and digital productions in the four-county South Florida region from Palm Beach and Broward to Monroe counties.

The measure would hand Florida’s film office over to the Orlando-based public-private entity Enterprise Florida to run, instead of leaving it in the Department of Economic Opportunity. And it would remove caps on how much of the credits could go to television shows like “The Glades” in Broward and “My Big Redneck Wedding” in Orlando.

STORY I’M NOT HIGHLIGHTING — “Senators Slow Rick Scott’s Attack on Notaries” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times. Really? Notaries? This is what they’re debating in the capital?! This is what the press corps is writing about?!

***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***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Florida State Foster/Adoptive Parent Association will participate in Foster Adoptive Kinship Awareness Day, beginning with a Children’s Week Press Conference today at 9:00 a.m. in the Capitol Courtyard.


Global leaders are gathering in Tallahassee for the three-day Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 International Days. The Chamber event is at the FSU Turnbull Conference Center, 555 West Pensacola Street in Tallahassee.

On the agenda are discussions on Florida’s international future featuring a roster of speakers such as Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Senate President Don Gaetz, and Rep. Dana Young, Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad, Enterprise Florida President Gray Swoope and VISIT FLORIDA chief Will Seccombe, as well as leaders from Florida’s air and seaports. The complete agenda is available online here.


No one is quite sure how Florida came to exclude 64-ounce growlers from the sizes acceptable to be filled in craft breweries. Gallon and 32-ounce growlers can be used, just not the more popular 2-quart size found in other states. So for years, the brewers have sought a simple addition to the law and beer distributors for major manufacturers like Anheuser-Busch have successfully blocked it.

But now distributors, whose power stems from the three-tier distribution system set up after Prohibition, are playing for keeps. While straightforward bills to allow the growlers stall, another bill (SB 1714) pushed by beer distributors with the blessing of Senate President Don Gaetz is set for a hearing today in the Senate Community Affairs Committee. It would allow craft breweries to fill 64-ounce growlers from the draft spigot, but only after altering state law so that any nondraft alcoholic product the brewer sells (such as prepackaged bottles or cans) would have to first be sold to a distributor — even if it never leaves the brewery and is sold directly to consumers there. That sounds like a protection racket from an old gangster movie.

… Senators on the Community Affairs Committee should stand for less regulation and amend the bill today to allow 64-ounce growlers and prevent the distributors from skimming off profits as a middleman.


Among the issues facing Tallahassee lawmakers on Tuesday: lowering the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund coverage, the “Pop Tart” bill, human trafficking and banning abortions if the fetus is viable outside the womb.

Physician assistants and nurse practitioners could have the ability to initiate involuntary Baker Acts under a bill in front of the Senate Committee on Children, Families, & Elder Affairs.

The Senate Gaming Committee will consider a bill requiring record keeping of injuries to racing greyhounds.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will examine pharmaceutical issues with managed-care plans’ preferred drug lists and a practice known as “step therapy.” The Senate Community Affairs Committee will undertake a bill allowing Citizens Property Insurance to work with construction projects in the Florida Keys, as well as a bill trimming the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority and another taking up the debate on allowing the craft brewing industry to sell 64-ounce “growlers.”

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Non-shocker of the year: Illinois residents are the least trusting of their state government. But Florida isn’t far behind. In a Gallup poll released last week, just seven percent of Floridian surveyed said that they trust state government a great deal, while a full 14 percent said they do not trust state government at all. About 45 percent of Floridians trust state government a fair amount, and another 33 percent, “not very much”.  In sum, these results show a Florida with below average trust in state government relative to the rest of the nation.

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Republican Eric Eisnaugle and Democrat Shaun Raja will compete in a special election in Orange County’s House District 44. Eisnaugle and Raja are seeking to replace former Rep. Steve Precourt, R-Orlando, who resigned earlier this year.


In his bid to return to the House, Eisnaugle posted Tuesday total of $342,020 raised through April 3, according to Division of Election filing reports. Of the $342,020 reported, Eisnaugle showed he spent $282,867 and almost all of it after Jan. 1.


Miller, who is the Director of Marketing and Corporate Sponsorship for Athletics for Rollins College, has jumped into House District 47 race, potentially changing the dynamic of what will be one of the most competitive State House races this year.

He joins what will be a tough GOP primary against Environmental Consultant Mo Pearson. Pearson has been campaigning for several months and at the time of this posting has about 57K of donations in his warchest. He’s also got the endorsement of Winter Park MayorKen Bradley, which is right in Miller’s backyard. Frank Caprio is the other Republican running, but hasn’t made a mark on this race yet.

The winner will go on to face incumbent Democrat and former Orange County Commissioner Linda Stewart, who despite some personal problems earlier this year, has about 53K on hand, is a hard grassroots campaigner and will be a “tough out” in November.


Republican Bill Young II, who is seeking to unseat incumbent Democrat Dwight Dudley in state House District 68, is scheduled to talk to the Pinellas County Young Republicans. Yard of Ale. Clearwater. 7 p.m.


As she gears up to run for a second term, Holly Raschein is in the strange but envious position of holding a huge advantage despite representing a swing district in the Florida House.

Raschein represents part of Miami-Dade and all of Monroe County, her district swinging through the Keys. This should be a battleground district as Republicans and Democrats run close in terms of registered voters here. Raschein’s predecessor was Democrat stalwart Ron Saunders and the area is represented in the Florida Senate by liberal Dwight Bullard. Generally, Raschein has been successful in portraying herself as a moderate Republican. It’s a strategy that’s worked well for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who represents the area in Congress.

In 2012, Raschein didn’t have the easiest path to the House. She ran over old Saunders foe Morgan McPherson in the primary and faced Democrat Ian Whitney in the general. Raschein beat McPherson by less than 5 percent, when all was said and done, despite outspending him by a 3:1 margin.

In the year and a half since winning the seat, Raschein has shown she intends to keep it. By the end of February, she had already raised more than $113,660 for her first term and spent almost $24,800 of that. She cranked up her efforts in February, bringing in more than $24,250 in that month alone.

Businesswoman and community leader Pamela Anne Gray filed her paperwork back in May to challenge Raschein. So far, Gray is the only Democrat in the race. Gray had run for the Miami-Dade Commission in 2010, before withdrawing and throwing her support behind another candidate. Gray served as president of the Redlands Citizens Association and as the chair of the Miami-Dade Planning Advisory Board.

Raschein’s not out of the clear yet, by any means, and if a major Democratic candidate jumps in, she could still have a fight on her hands. But Gray simply isn’t making much progress here and, as of now, the Republican incumbent looks headed for an easy win.

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Votes are in for the 1st Round of TallyMadness — the online voting competition to determine Florida’s “best” lobbyist. And just like this year in college basketball, several upsets have been delivered already.

Such as No. 16 seed Alan Suskey beating out No. 1 seed Brian Ballard; No. 14 seed Missy Timmins overtaking No. 3 seed Michael Corcoran; and No. 14 seed Monica Rodriguez out-shooting No. 3 seed Marion Hammer.

Other lower-seeded victors in the 1st Round include No. 12 seed Mercer Fearington over No. 5 seed Hayden Dempsey; No. 15 seed Richard Reeves over No. 2 seed Charlie Dudley; No. 11 seed Adam Babington over No. 6 seed Tracy Mayernick; No. 11 seed Sean Pittman over No. 6 seed Matt Bryan; No. 10 seed Amy Christian over No. 7 seed Tim Meenan; and No. 10 seed Allison Carvajal over No. 7 seed Steve Metz.

In full, expect to see the following top lobbyists move on to the 2nd Round: No. 1 seeds Nick Iarossi, Jon Johnson, and Ron Book; No. 2 seeds Mark Delegal, Bill Rubin, and Chris Dudley; No. 3 seed Dave Ramba; No. 4 seeds Paul Bradshaw, Travis Blanton, Katie Webb, and Ron Laface; No. 5 seeds Gus Corbella, Claudia Davant, and Rhett O’Doski; No. 6 seeds Gary Guzzo, and Dean Cannon; No. 7 seed Robert Coker; No. 8 seeds Jim Magill, Jeff Hartley, Jennifer Green, and Slater Bayliss; No. 10 seeds Amy Christian and Allison Carvajal; No. 11 seeds Adam Babington and Sean Pittman; No. 12 seed Mercer Fearington; No. 14 seeds Monica Rodriguez and Missy Timmins; No. 15 seed Richard Reeves; and No. 16 seed Alan Suskey.

Second-round voting begins later today.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY today to CFO Jeff Atwater.

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.