Sunburn for 7/22 — 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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AHEAD THIS WEEK

The week began with a prayer, as Gov. Rick Scott called for unity in the aftermath of the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. But the rest of the week will involve more-typical business of state government, including hearings about insurance issues and town-hall meetings. 

The News Service of Florida has a comprehensive preview of the week here.

POTUS TO VISIT JAX

President Barack Obama will travel to Jacksonville on Thursday to talk about the economy. 

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MEGADONORS KEEP CLOSE EYE ON MARCO RUBIO via Tarini Parti of POLITICO

Republican megadonors and fundraisers are watching every move Marco Rubio makes. On balance, the GOP establishment applauded the Florida senator’s work on immigration reform, but worry about his flirtation with co-sponsoring a 20-week abortion ban. At the same time, Rubio’s conservative supporters criticized him for working with Democrats on immigration and the abortion measure could help bring him back into their good graces. It’s a balancing act that Rubio and other potential 2016 presidential candidates must master if they’re going to go anywhere. Social issues like abortion can certainly fire up legions of small donors, but staying away from those issues helps appeal to a larger pool of megadonors focused on economic issues. And it’s the big money that funds the super PACs and nonprofits that can swing elections. Rubio has already seen the benefits from his efforts on immigration reform, which has huge support among the GOP big donor class. Between April and June, when the immigration bill was debated in the Senate, he raised $3 million, 30 percent more than the previous quarter, his campaign finance filings are expected to show.

IMMIGRATION BACKERS PREPARE TO PUSH HOUSE

With the August recess fast approaching, backers of comprehensive immigration reform are readying targeted campaigns and large-scale rallies to keep the legislation alive during the break, the Associated Press reports.

Senators distributed a list of 121 “persuadable” House Republicans to various pro-immigration organizations earlier this week so that campaigns could be built for specific congressional districts. House Speaker John Boehner hoped for House action on immigration before the recess but refuses to consider the comprehensive Senate bill that was passed last month, favoring a piecemeal approach to reform.

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GWEN GRAHAM WINS MENTION IN POLITICO’S TOP 50 TO WATCH’ SERIES

Gwen Graham made Politico’s Top 50 Politicos to Watch marking the 50-year-old school district attorney and mother of three as a strong contender for overtaking Republican congressional incumbent Steve Southerland in 2014 — and is seen as a  clear Democratic Party favorite against former state Sen. Al Lawson.

This is Graham’s first run for office, but as POLITICO notes, she is no stranger to the campaign trail. She grew up with politics as the daughter of Florida’s much loved three-term former senator, and aided Howard Dean and John Kerry in their presidential bids after her father dropped out of the race.   Graham believes that North Florida is full of “Graham Democrats” who yearn for the type of leadership that her father represented.  

Graham has the support of EMILY’s list as well as likely backing from former Gov. Charlie Crist.  Southerland has already been named among the most vulnerable Republicans in the nation, and has had a less than stellar fundraising quarter.

WHY ALAN GRAYSON IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE MEMBER OF THE US HOUSE via Dave Weigel of Slate

The last time the media noticed Alan Grayson, he was a freshman Democrat, a member of the 2008 Obama wave, trying and failing to survive 2010. Grayson joked that Dick Cheney left a “torture rack” in the White House, said that the Republican health care plan was for people to “die quickly”—so on and so on, all very helpful to a press trying to prove that the Tea Party had an ideological match on the left. Grayson went down by 18 points to the blandly conservative former state senator Daniel Webster, or “Taliban Dan,” as a Grayson ad called him. The Washington Post eulogized him as “a controversial liberal icon that many in the Democratic Party weren’t sad to see lose.”

Grayson’s back because the last round of redistricting created a new, safe seat in metro Orlando. He won it, reclaiming a job he says he wants to keep “for a long, long time.” In doing so he’s stopped being a Republican target and started getting along with the majority. In his office, the only evidence that he used to irritate the other party is a plaque on his desk: I Have Flying Monkeys and I’m Not Afraid to Use Them. He doesn’t use them on Republicans anymore. “I don’t think they feel the same sort of glee,” he says. “I don’t see them using me as a fundraising ploy.”

The new strategy is simple. Grayson and his staff scan the bills that come out of the majority. They scan amendments that passed in previous Congresses but died at some point along the way. They resurrect or mold bills that can appeal to the libertarian streak in the GOP, and Grayson lobbies his colleagues personally. That’s how he attached a ban on funding for “unmanned aerial vehicles,” i.e. drones, to the homeland security bill. He swears that they don’t back away from him because of his old persona—well, his relationship with Webster is “strained,” but he points out that Webster won re-election by 5,000 votes and Grayson won with 70,000. Never mind that. Are the members of Congress more forgiving than members of the press?

“It’s either that, or we’re all senile,” he says. “In some cases it’s a short conversation. In some cases it’s a long conversation. In some cases, they’re desperate to talk to somebody. Some members are actually very lonely people.”

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BLOG POST OF THE DAY via new SaintPetersBlog contributor, Patrick SlevinCRIST COULD LOSE BY A HARE

Recently, Governor Scott cited a Moody’s Investor’s Service report, indicating that Florida’s job growth is expected to exceed the national average through to 2017.  In June, the unemployment rate remained at 7.1 percent.  

That’s problematic for Crist given in December 2010, the month before he left the governor’s mansion, Florida’s unemployment rate was over 11 percent.  He could take a page out of Obama’s playbook by blaming President Bush, but there’s plenty of video showing then Republican Governor Crist praising Bush.  Moreover, Crist cannot blame President Obama for the high unemployment.  

So every month leading up to Election Day, voters will see an improving economy and that Governor Scott kept his promise in creating more jobs in Florida. And voters are taking notice. 

The same poll that showed Scott’s approval numbers climbing also showed a growing number of Florida voters saying the economy was getting better. Among those who were surveyed a seeing the economy improving, 82 percent gave Scott credit, while 65 percent gave some credit to President Obama. 

Moreover, President Obama could weigh Crist down.  The President’s approval ratings in Florida have dropped below 50 percent due to the scandals spanning the IRS, NSA, Benghazi and the wiretapping of news agencies.  ObamaCare is also appearing to become a political liability.  

How helpful will Obama be to Crist going into 2014 remains to be seen. 

WHAT A POLL OF HD 21 TELLS US ABOUT CRIST VS. SCOTT Full blog post here

When asked “if the election for the Florida House were held today, would you vote for a Democrat or a Republican”, 47% of respondents said they would vote for a Democrat, while 41% said they would vote for a Republican. That’s not exactly good news for Rep. Keith Perry. Neither is the statistic that voters said they would vote for Debbie Boyd over Perry 47% to 38%.

Putting together the favorable/unfavorable numbers and ballot tests, it’s pretty clear this district wants to lean Democratic, even if it did elect a Republican. But it’s not a slam dunk for the Democrats either, especially if you factor in the significant resource advantage the Republicans will likely have.

But take a look at the Crist and Scott numbers.

Crist’s favorable rating is 42% favorable/40% favorable, meaning Crist is a polarizing figure in this lean-Democrat seat that’s represented by a Republican. Yet Scott’s numbers are upside down by twenty-four points at 31% favorable/55% unfavorable. 

In this possible battleground seat, where neither Charlie Crist nor Debbie Boyd nor Keith Perry elicit an overwhelming response in either direction, Rick Scott is disliked by a majority of the district.

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POLL: MAJORITY OF FLORIDIANS ACCEPT ZIMMERMAN TRIAL VERDICT, SUPPORT “STAND YOUR GROUND” LAW Survey results here

Viewpoint Florida conducted a statewide survey … to assess voter attitudes related to the much-publicized trial of George Zimmerman.

56% of the voters surveyed thought that the jury’s ‘not guilty’ verdict in the Zimmerman trial over the shooting of Trayvon Martin was the correct verdict. … 63% of the voters surveyed did not believe that Zimmerman should not be charged with a federal hate crime after he was not convicted in his criminal trial.

Respondents were asked to choose one of three statements which best described their perception of Zimmerman’s conduct leading up to and including his shooting of Martin. 53% of respondents felt that he was justifiably acting in self-defense, while 27% of respondents felt that Zimmerman had committed a clear act of racially motivated violence, and 13% felt that Zimmerman had committed murder when he shot Martin, but that the killing was not racially motivated.

Similarly, respondents were asked to choose a statement from three which best described their view on Florida’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” law. 50% said the law is fine the way it is, while 31% of voters thought the law needed to be changed or limited, and just 13% thought that “Stand Your Ground” should be repealed entirely.

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BONDI SEEKS DISMISSAL OF ‘TIMELY JUSTICE’ CHALLENGE via the News Service of Florida

Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office has asked the Florida Supreme Court to reject a challenge to a new law aimed at reducing delays in carrying out the death penalty. Attorneys representing Death Row inmates filed the challenge late last month, after Gov. Rick Scott signed the “Timely Justice Act” into law.

They contended the measure is unconstitutional, in part because it would violate the separation of powers by imposing obligations on lawyers that conflict with judicially-determined rules.

But in a filing late last week, attorneys in Bondi’s office described the challenge as “meritless” and also said the Supreme Court does not have “jurisdiction” to rule on the challenge. “The petition makes no effort to identify any actual impact upon any pending case that might be affected by the passage of the Timely Justice Act,” Bondi’s office argued in the document. “The petition primarily attacks the constitutionality of the law with regard to the issuance of a death warrant, but the act does not make any defendant eligible or ineligible for a warrant or otherwise affect the status of any death-sentenced inmate.” 

MUST-READ EDITORIAL – RESOLVE DISPUTE ON WHERE POLITICIANS MUST SLEEP via the Sun-Sentinel

(Maria) Sachs argues that she does, indeed, reside in the district, having rented an apartment on Northeast Ninth Street in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Her driver’s license and voter registration card both show she resides at the apartment complex. She also says she receives mail there, considers it her legal address and claims no homestead exemption on the Boca house.

But while Sachs might meet the letter of the law, she doesn’t meet the spirit of the law that requires state lawmakers to live in the districts they represent.

… Sachs argues that the law on residency recognizes that people may — and do — reside at more than one location. She points to case law that addresses “fact and intention,” and says it’s her intention that the downtown apartment be her legal residence. She points to an appellate ruling in Ogden v. Ogden that says, “The best proof of one’s domicile is where the person says it is.”

(Jack) Latvala, by contrast, argues that “domicile is where you hang your hat, it has nothing to do with intent.”

“If she’s ever stayed there one single night, I would kiss her feet,” he told us. “She signed an oath when she took office that says that under penalty of perjury, she meets the constitutional requirements of the office.” He says a criminal investigation is warranted because perjury is “a third-degree felony.”

… Latvala’s request deserves a response. However, it would be heavy handed for a Republican governor to order a criminal investigation of five Democratic lawmakers, especially since one branch of government has no business interfering in the workings of another.

Rather, as Latvala also has suggested, the Florida Legislature should police its own. The best body to determine whether Sachs has broken the law is the Senate Rules Committee.

TWEET, TWEET: @JackLatvala Glad at least one ed board is giving this matter serious attention.

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LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND via the Florida Current

Luke Givens has left the employ of Rep. Travis Hutson as district secretary. Meanwhile, Jennifer Lubi has joined Hutson’s office in the same role.

MIKE FASANO NOT CONFIDENT ON SCOTT APPOINTMENT via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

The decision on whether to appoint state Rep. Mike Fasano to finish the term of late Pasco tax collector Mike Olson can’t be an easy one for Gov. Scott.

Why would he want to reward a non-team player like Fasano, often a loud critic of the governor? On the other hand, what better way to dispatch of a pesky legislator with a knack for publicity than sending him into a low-profile office far from Tallahassee?

When Fasano met recently with the governor’s chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, to discuss the appointment, Hollingsworth made a point of reminding Fasano of how often he had veered off the reservation since Scott became governor.

“He certainly did. We had a very frank discussion, and he made that very clear that over the last few years I’ve not been very supportive of the governor as they had hoped I would,” Fasano said in a Political Connections interview on Bay News 9. “But you know when I see something wrong … or some policy in Tallahassee that’s going to have an ill effect on the constituents, especially back in the Tampa Bay area, I’m going to voice my concern, I’m going to say no to it, I’m going to fight against it.”

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APPOINTED:  Dr. Joseph H. Strickland, Dr. Mark S. Block, Dr. Melvin B. Price and James W. Pearce to the Board of Podiatric Medicine.

PASCO SHOULD PUT LOBBYING MONEY TO BETTER USE via the Tampa Bay Times

“I think it’s ludicrous,” Richard Corcoran said. “Given who we have in the delegation, there is absolutely no need for a lobbyist. I’d rather they spent that money on a firefighter or a police officer than on a lobbyist.”

Corcoran’s blunt assessment is welcome. Too frequently, Pasco’s legislative delegation has acquiesced to the county’s unnecessary spending on lobbying.

The commission originally retained Slater Bayliss of the Advocacy Group at Tew Cardenas LLC for $40,000 in 2005 to lobby for transportation dollars even though then-Sen. Fasano chaired the Senate committee overseeing transportation appropriations. The dubious spending never ceased and, instead, expanded five years later to cover nontransportation issues when the county’s other lobbyist retired.

With little or no discussion, commissioners routinely renewed the publicly financed lobbying contract. That changed in March when Commissioner Henry Wilson persuaded the rest of the board to offer Bayliss just a three-month extension through the 2013 legislative session and then to find out if other firms wanted to bid for the county lobbying contract.

Wilson got it half right. The commission should bag its lobbyist entirely and put the money toward programs closer to home such as code enforcement or road maintenance. And in the near future, if commissioners feel the need to lobby the state’s most powerful legislators, they know where to find them. Their offices are in central Pasco.

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NATE SILVER LEAVING NEW YORK TIMES FOR ESPN via Brian Stetler of the New York Times

 Nate Silver … is parting ways with The New York Times and moving his FiveThirtyEight franchise to ESPN, the sports empire controlled by the Walt Disney Company, according to ESPN employees with direct knowledge of his plans.

At ESPN, Silver is expected to have a wide-ranging portfolio. Along with his writing and number-crunching, he will most likely be a regular contributor to ‘Olbermann,’ the late-night ESPN2 talk show hosted by Keith Olbermann that will have its debut at the end of August. In political years, he will also have a role at ABC News, which is owned by Disney.

… Silver’s deal could be announced as soon as Monday. Before creating statistical models for elections, Silver was a baseball sabermetrician who built a highly effective system for projecting how players would perform in the future. For a time he was a managing partner of Baseball Prospectus. … Silver’s three-year contract with The Times is set to expire in late August … NBC News and its cable news channel MSNBC was another interested party.

REMEMBERING HELEN THOMAS via David Stout, with Mark Landler of the New York Times

Helen Thomas, whose keen curiosity, unquenchable drive and celebrated constancy made her a trailblazing White House correspondent in a press corps dominated by men and who was later regarded as the dean of the White House briefing room, died on Saturdayat her home in Washington. She was 92. … Ms. Thomas covered every president from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama for United Press International and, later, Hearst Newspapers. … [H]er status [was] ratified by her signature line at the end of every White House news conference: ‘Thank you, Mr. President.’ Her blunt questions and sharp tone made her a familiar personality not only in the parochial world inside the Washington Beltway but also to television audiences across the country. … In 1971, Ms. Thomas married Douglas Cornell, a widower, who was about to retire as a White House reporter for The A.P. and was 14 years her senior. He died in 1982. …

“In an interview with The New York Times in May 2006, Ms. Thomas was characteristically uncompromising and unapologetic. ‘How would you define the difference between a probing question and a rude one?’ she was asked. ‘I don’t think there are any rude questions,’ she said.

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FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE WEEKEND: “Today I got to marry the most wonderful man I’ve ever known, in my favorite place. Now do I get to be called Mrs. Senator?” — Via Shelia Paluszek Qualls, the bubbling bride of Senator Jeff Clemens.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to a host of great Florida politicos, including Vic DiMaio, Jamie Miller, and Missy Timmins, as well as Creative Loafing editor David Warner.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.