Sunburn for 7/12 – 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 federal government on Thursday reported a rare surplus of $116.5 billion in June, the largest for a single month in five years. The gain kept the nation on track for its lowest annual deficit in five years.

The surplus was due in part to $66.3 billion in dividend payments from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The mortgage giants were taken over by the government at the height of the 2008 financial crisis and are now repaying taxpayers for the support they received.

Through the first eight months of the budget year, the deficit has totaled $509.8 billion, according to the Treasury. That’s $394.4 billion lower than the same period last year.


A bipartisan group of senators is closing in on a compromise that could provide a long-term fix for student-loan interest rates,The Hill reports, but the plan still faces several hurdles. The deal would tie interest rates on Stafford loans to the market, a plan that is similar to those endorsed by House Republicans and the White House. The coalition pushing the proposal consists of Sens. Joe Manchin, Angus King, Lamar Alexander, and Richard Burr. 


US Sen. Bill Nelson will address the NAACP at 9:30 a.m. on Monday at the Orange County Convention Center, with media availability following. Nelson will follow a keynote by NAACP president and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, who at age 35 became the 17th and youngest person to lead the organization.  Nelson, according to his prepared remarks, will slam the Supreme Court for its recent ruling on the Voting Rights Act and for weakening the election protections it has provided since the mid-1960s. The theme of the NAACP convention is “We shall not be moved.” 


It is easy to say that President Obama has failed to achieve various policy goals because of an intractable contingent of Republicans in Congress, but data published in the recent release of Brookings’ Vital Statistics on Congress suggest that our president faces at least an equally amenable congress to those of his predecessors. Overall, President Obama slipped from having 96.7% of Congressional votes go his way in 2009, to 85.8% in 2010; 57.1% in 2011; and 53.6% in 2012.   Comparatively, President G.W. Bush went from a high of 87.8% of votes aligned with his positions in 2002 down to 38.3% in 2007 and 26.3% in 2008.  The similarities between these presidents in terms of congressional relations is greater when considering partisan dynamics. President Bush received just 32% of House Democrat votes in 2001, along with 67% of Senate Democrat votes.  By the end of his term, this had eroded to 16% among House Democrats and 34% among Senate Democrats. In 2009, House Republicans voted consistent with President Obama 27% of the time, down to 17% in 2012; while Senate Republicans have barely varied from 51% in 2009 to 47% in 2012.

Further, scores of party unity in Congress haven’t changed a whole lot since 1954, when 80% of House Democrats and 84% of House Republicans voted with their party majority, and where 77% of Senate Democrats and 89% of Senate Republicans did so. These figures remain in the mid-70s to high-80s for both parties from that point forward.  In 2012, 87% of House Democrats and 90% of House Republicans vote with their party, while 92% of Senate Democrats and  80% of Senate Republicans do so.

TWEET OF THE DAY: @MarcACaputo: Disappointed Marco Rubio talked about debt, taxes and Obamacare. America only cares about #zimmerman. Duh

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In the context of Congress, “productivity” is not a normative term. Depending who you ask, it is a particularly good year when few things get done. Brookings’ Vital Statistics on Congress has collaborated for more than three decades to provide a data-rich reference guide on Congress, its actions and its members.  Released in July, the 2013 report is available online as a collection of Excel spreadsheets, free of charge: i.e. interesting and accessible at the expense of one’s own productivity, unless of course your job is to read about such things.  Chapter 6 details legislative productivity and Congress’ workload and is a great place to start before digging into grittier findings on political polarization and changing voter alignments (Chapter 8), but isn’t as much of a snoozer as Chapter 7 on Congress’ work on the federal budget.   Click here for the complete analysis, which concludes: “Congress may not be passing more laws these days, but the laws they do pass have a lot more in them.”


St. Lucie County Commissioner Tod Mowery, who had discussed a bid with the NRCC, said that he won’t run against Rep. Patrick Murphy next year. “A big Mowery selling point was his ability to win as a Republican in Democrat-dominated St. Lucie County,” but some worried about his fundraising ability. Businessman Gary Uber (R), who also met with the NRSC, opted out as well. Murphy’s campaign is quick to point out that both announcements came within 24 hours of their fundraising announcement. Murphy raised $520,000 last quarter. But he’ll still have to contend with former State Rep. Carl Domino, who has spent more than $1 million of his own money on his past campaigns.


The House voted 216-208 mostly along party lines to pass a pared-down farm bill Thursday afternoon, a vote that observers believe is an important victory for Speaker John Boehner and other GOP leadership in the chamber, National Journal‘s Billy House reports. The measure lacks a reauthorization of the food stamp program included in the bill’s last version. The food-stamp funding was a major reason the last bill was rejected last month, an embarrassing blow to House Republican leaders. 

TWEET, TWEET: @SteveSchale: The #FL02 race with @GwenForCongress just named one of @StuPolitics Five Southern Races to Watch 

UNWIELDY PRESS RELEASE OF THE DAY: “Florida House GOP candidate rejects former client Fred Thompson’s comments on immigration 

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ANOTHER $39K! FOR NAN RICH via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Looks like the Florida GOP’s efforts to promote Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich and push the state party to let her speak at its recent Jefferson-Jackson dinner did little for her bottom line. The former Florida Senate Democratic leader raised just $39,213 in the last fundraising quarter. To date she has raised about $160,000 and spent about $101,000.

It says something about the state of Florida politics these days that the only credible announced candidate for governor raised less than $40,000 in the last quarter, while Republican state Sens. Joe Negron and Lizbeth Benacquisto both raised more than $220,000 in the same period. 

ASSIGNMENT EDITOR: The Republican Party of Florida will hold its Quarterly Board Meeting via conference call. Reporters wishing to cover the open session will listen via phone in the 1st floor conference room at RPOF headquarters. 10:30 a.m.


Today, the Florida Democratic Party announced the hiring of two key fundraising positions. Sarah Smith will be the Party’s Finance Director, and Michael Hoffman will be Deputy Finance Director. A Florida native, Smith has been raising money for political and non-profit causes in Florida for eight years. For the past two years, she managed fundraising events for the Miami Children’s Museum. In the 2010 election cycle, she directed fundraising efforts in north Florida for Alex Sink’s campaign for governor. Prior to that, she worked in the finance departments of the Florida Democratic Party and Rod Smith’s campaign for governor. Hoffman has raised money for several Democratic campaigns, including Alex Sink’s 2010 campaign for governor and Barack Obama’s reelection campaign in 2011 and 2012. He grew up in Florida and graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.

WHAT ONE DEM INSIDER THINKS OF THESE HIRES: “So basically FDP is rehiring/recycling old staff again? As always, hiring the same people and expecting different results.”

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It is a cliché in politics and work circles that when things get messy on the job, people resign… always “for family reasons,” even when it is obvious that there’s more to the story. But in the case of working mothers with young children, family is often the real reason why a change in work life is needed. This was the case for Amanda Prater, who announced on Thursday her resignation as chief of staff at Florida’s Department of Children and Families. Mother to two elementary-age children, Prater has worked around the clock at DCF for the past two years, but is no stranger to the 24-7 job.

“I love my job here and I believe in this agency and have the greatest admiration for my colleagues here at DCF,” said Prater. “There is no more important work that I could think of than protecting innocent children and helping those that need it most.” Yet as the frequency of missed field trips, dinners, and homework time with her own kids increased, Prater felt that the balance between family and work had to shift. She reluctantly shared her intentions with DCF Secretary David Wilkins weeks ago, prior to much of the recent news articles regarding four tragic child deaths and unrelated to her work responsibilities.  “It was the hardest decision I’ve made. But I knew that if I didn’t make a change I would regret it later,” she said.

But this isn’t the last we will see or hear of Amanda Prater — policy and government are in her blood, and when it comes to managing a broad range of complex issues, she is a natural.  “Amanda worked at DCF with the goal of ensuring all Florida children the same safety and devotion she feels for her own,” Vivian Myrtetus, former DCF Chief of Staff and mother of two said. “Jackson and Emma will see more of their mom now, but those qualities in her will show up just as strongly wherever she puts her mind next.”

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1/3 OF FLORIDA SENATORS ARE MILLIONAIRES via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

More than one-third of the 40 senators have net worths topping $1 million — with 11 of the members’ financial-disclosure reports still under wraps.

Of those whose updated reports were posted online as of Thursday by the Florida Commission on Ethics — forms were due July 1 — the average net worth is just under $4.4 million, an overall average increase of $352,000 from a year ago.

The 2013 Senate class is topped by President Don Gaetz, a co-founder of VITAS Healthcare Corp. and former Okaloosa County schools superintendent, who is worth $26.2 million.

Others who have done well in their professional careers include: Sen. Wilton Simpson, who is worth $15.6 million; Sen. Jeremy Ring, $14.1 million; and Sen. Jeff Brandes, $12.2 million.


Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) announced the recipients of its 2013 AIF ‘Champions for Business’ awards, which  the organization gives to recognize elected officials who “go above and beyond to support a business-friendly environment in Florida.” This year marks the 10th anniversary of the annual awards program. Since 2003, the association has bestowed a total of 128 AIF ‘Champions for Business’ awards upon 82 different elected officials, including two governors, three four-time winners, 10 three-time winners and 17 two-time winners.  Among this year’s winners are Gov. Rick Scott – only the second governor to receive an AIF ‘Champions for Business’ award in its 10-year history – and 14 legislators, including six Senators and eight Representatives: Senators Garrett Richter, Joe Negron, John Legg, Alan Hays, Chris Smith, and Bill Galvano; and Representatives Jim Boyd, Steve Crisafulli, Matt Hudson, Larry Metz, Jimmy Patronis, Steve Precourt, Jake Raburn, and Matt Gaetz.  Sen. Smith stands out as the only Democrat to receive this honor.

GAETZ, WEATHERFORD TO HIT THE ROAD TODAY via the News Service of Florida

Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford are heading to South Florida today to highlight the work of the 2013 legislative session.

The legislative leaders’ third “Work Plan Florida Tour” will be a one-day blitz that hits four spots in Fort Lauderdale, Hialeah and Miami. Joining Gaetz and Weatherford on some of the stops will be Sen. Maria Sachs and Reps. Eddy Gonzalez; Erik Fresen; Manny Diaz; Carlos Trujillo; and Jeanette Nunez.

Prior two-day tours in May and June have been in the Orlando-Lakeland-Tampa and western Panhandle regions.


Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen will be hosting a series of Town Hall Meetings in Fort Meyers, where she will meet with the public free of charge and discuss issues of interest leading into the 2014 Legislative Session. The first meeting will be held on Monday, July 29, from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. at the Dr. Carrie Robinson Community Center at 299 Edison Avenue.  Then, join her on Thursday, August 1, from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. at the Florida Gulf Coast University Sugden Hall, Room 111, at 10501 FGCU Blvd.  The meetings are free of charge, and light refreshments are provided.  


The Florida Senate ethics committee chairman wants a criminal investigation into elected officials who appear to live outside the districts they represent.

“I think it’s really a crying shame that we have as many as half a dozen Florida state legislators who are violating the [Florida] Constitution every single day by living outside their district,” said Latvala. “I think you’ve done the people of Florida, or at least South Florida, a great service by exposing how many of these legislators are violating the constitution.”

Local 10 investigated Florida House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, State Representatives Jared Moskowitz and Hazelle Rogers, and State Senator Maria Sachs, who all have homes outside the districts they represent. 

Latvala said he has contacted the Gov. Rick Scott’s office, Senate President Gaetz, and Speaker Weatherford about the issue. He wants Scott to order an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

“I’m going to have all three of those officials to take action, so we can get to the bottom of this issue for the people of the state of Florida,” Latvala said.


The Florida Supreme Court has said lower courts have jurisdiction to consider the constitutionality of the  state’s newly-drawn political lines, according to an opinion released Thursday.

It’s the latest in a lawsuit filed by a coalition of plaintiffs argue the newly-drawn state Senate maps violate the Fair District amendments, which were designed to take politics out of the redistricting process. Among the coalition are the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida.

Attorneys representing the Legislature argued that only the Supreme Court has authority to review redistricting maps, and because the court approved them during a 30-day review period after lawmakers passed them, they should not face a second round of scrutiny.

By a 5-2 decision, the court disagreed. Justices Peggy Quince, Barbara Parient, Fred Lewis, James Perry, Jorge Labarga comprised the majority, while Justice Charles Canady and Chief Justice Ricky Polston dissented.

They were only considering state Senate maps, not those drawn for the House. The court approved the House maps on their first review, but initially swatted the Senate maps. After a redraw, the court deemed them “constitutionally valid.”

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It appears that the populist legislator has Pasco officialdom behind him.

“Mike Fasano is the ideal candidate for the job with a proven track record of outstanding constituent service and a dedication to Pasco County that is second to none,” read a letter to Gov. Rick Scott, who must appoint a successor to Olson. The letter was signed by state Sen. John Legg, state Sen. Wilton Simpson, and House Speaker Will Weatherford. It also included the names of Elections Supervisor Brian Corley, Superintendent Kurt Browning, Clerk of Court Paula O’Neil, Property Appraiser Mike Wells and U.S. Rep Gus Bilirakis.

Sheriff Chris Nocco signed the letter — and wrote one of his own.

“Mike Fasano has been an avid leader in our community whose outlook, strengths, and desire to serve match the needs of a Tax Collector,” Nocco wrote.

County Commission Chairman Ted Schrader also wrote to Scott expressing his support.


When it comes to the top fundraisers for State House and Senate campaigns, all ten candidates are Republican, and almost none have an opponent. In the Senate, the top five fundraisers are all incumbents. Appropriations Chair Joe Negron closed out the second quarter on June 30 reporting $202,975 in donations, while his only opponent reports about $1,850 in cash on hand.

Senators Lizbeth Benacquisto, Wilton Simpson and Jeff Brandes are all unopposed in their races so far, and have brought in $202,425, $172,205, and $148,200 respectively.   Sen. Jack Latvala, with $111,025 in the bank, will have a primary election facing two Republicans, but together these opponents have just $1,000 cash on hand and have not collected from any outside donor.   In the House, the top fundraiser is former State Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, who brought in $144,010 this quarter, leaving him with $138,678 cash in hand.  Rep. Daniel Davis raised $95,861, with an opponent who filed after June 30 and is not yet required to report contributions.  Candidates Bradley Drake raised $91,000 in his race to fill the seat being vacated by Rep. Marti Coley; and Julio Gonzalez raised $76,201 to fill the seat currently held by Rep. Doug Holder.  Finally, Rep. Dana Young raised $71,150, and remains unopposed.

Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam raised a staggering $591,011 for his reelection, and Attorney General Pam Bondi raised $195,125 this quarter. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich brought in $160,349 in contributions, but already blew through $101,107 of it in the attempt to generate the appearance of viability, leaving her with $58,252 cash in hand. Special thanks to Christina Johnson for compiling and making accessible the data for this report. 


In 2012, incumbent State Rep. Scott Plakon was narrowly unseated by challenger Karen Castor Dentel; meanwhile, challenger-turned-Representative Mike Clelland defeated Republican incumbent and future House Speaker Chris Dorworth.  In 2014, Plakon and Clelland will square off for House District 29, this time with Clelland on the defense.   But looking simply at cumulative first and second quarter fundraising totals, Rep. Clelland shows no sign of backing down quietly, outraising Plakon by $19,231.   Clelland, a Democrat, raised $56,281, leaving him with all but $13.25 in the bank, while Plakon brought in $37,050 and spent $2,073.  A closer look at their campaign finance reports shows that Clelland’s leg up in fundraising came from a larger base of donors. Clelland’s 217 donors contributed an average of $259, while Plakon’s 122 donors contributed an average of $304.  Just over 17 percent of Plakon’s donors are based in Tallahassee, and the same is true for about 9 percent of Clelland’s.

SHAW BUILDS MONEY EDGE IN HD 61 via the News Service of Florida

Former state insurance consumer advocate Sean Shaw collected another $34,600 between April 1 and June 30, giving him an overall total of $64,575 as he seeks a Hillsborough County House seat.

Shaw, who is running next year to replace term-limited Rep. Betty Reed, received substantial support from plaintiffs’ attorneys. Tampa Democrat Edwin Narain, another candidate in House District 61, reported collecting $19,535 during the quarter. Narain, who began raising money in April, received $1,000 from companies associated with Walt Disney World. Two other candidates, Tampa Democrats Sharon Carter and Tatiana Denson, raised little money during the three-month period.


Candidates faced a Wednesday deadline for filing second-quarter finance reports. Yet, besides Melissa Hagan, none of the candidates running in House District 6 — Mark Anderson, Norman Bishop, and Brian Rust, Jr. — have turned in their reports with the Florida Division of Elections.

What gives?

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APPOINTED: Sarasota County Judge Kimberly C. Bonner to the Twelfth Judicial Circuit.


The  Florida Society of Associations Executives ( FSAE)  are meeting in Tampa this week. Over 300 Florida Executive Directors from all over Florida  are at the Waterside Marriott for there Annual Meeting. 
The Association Industry has over a $3.5 billion economic impact to Florida’s economy. For more info please see


Marnie George, Pennington, P.A.: medtel24 

Michael Harrell, Pennington, P.A.: Habitat for Humanity of Florida, Inc.

Yolanda Jackson, Becker & Poliakoff PA: Gulf Power, A Southern Company

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my colleague on the board of Suncoast Tiger Bay, Art O’Hara, and former congressman and Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.

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.