Sunburn for 8/16: A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

***On the eve of the Republican National Convention, several of Florida’s leading political and public affairs consultants will be hosting an invitation-only party in St. Peterburg. The “Full Lid Party” will be the go-to after party following the official welcome reception at Tropicana Field. Click here for more information and tickets.***

POLL: ROMNEY-RYAN 48%, OBAMA-BIDEN 47% by Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s selection of Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate looks like a safe choice right now in Florida and other swing states, according to a new survey from Purple Poll.

Most intriguing in Florida: Romney’s ticket is deadlocked with President Obama’s over Medicare, 44-45%, even though Ryan is the father of he so-called “Ryan plan,” which Democrats hae villified for two years for “ending Medicare.” It doesn’t. But the plan does end Medicare’s traditional structure starting in 2022 by giving new recipients a voucher-like premium, the growth rate of which would be capped. That could lead to more out of pocket expenses for seniors.

US CHAMBER OF COMMERCE TARGETS BILL NELSON AGAIN

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced this afternoon it is launching a second round of attack adsagainst Nelson, this time highlighting his support for federal labor regulations.

Without being specific about which labor regulations or laws upset the chamber (other than screen text that mentions “Card Check” and “Ambush elections”) the ad declares, “Now, Nelson is siding with national unions, voting against Florida’s workers and employers.” … “Support more jobs. Not Bill Nelson and the union bosses,” the narrator concludes.

THE WASHINGTON POST ASKS: CAN CONNIE MACK BEAT NELSON?

Rep. Connie Mack IV cruised to victory on Tuesday in Florida’s Republican Senate primary, winning nearly 60 percent of the vote against nominal competition he barely acknowledged during the campaign.

But toppling Sen. Bill Nelson, a likable second-term Democrat with a nearly $9 million campaign account is a considerably more demanding task. Mack begins the race as an underdog, but not one without a path to victory. To pull an upset, he’ll need to tighten up a shaky campaign.

LEAST PRODUCTIVE CONGRESS SINCE WORLD WAR II

Congress is on pace to make history with the least productive legislative year in the post World War II era, USA Today reports.

“Just 61 bills have become law to date in 2012 out of 3,914 bills that have been introduced by lawmakers, or less than 2% of all proposed laws, according to a USA Today analysis of records since 1947 kept by the U.S. House Clerk’s office. “

BRIAN BALLARD, AK DESAI, WILL WEATHERFORD HEADLING FUNDRAISER FOR PAUL RYAN THIS SATURDAY

The list of those hosting the fundraiser for Republican vice presidential Paul Ryan reads not just like a Who’s Who of Tampa Bay politics, but of state and national GOP politics. Brian Ballard, AK Desai, the Semblers and Courtney and Will Weatherford are among those headlining the event this Saturday at Bill Edwards’ The Club at Treasure Island.

A $2,500 check gains you entrance to the General Reception, but it will cost ten times that for admission to a VIP Reception. View the invite here.

FOLEY & LARDNER PLAN STAR-STUDDED SALUTE TO CLETA MITCHELL DURING RNC

Law and lobbying firm Foley & Lardner is gearing up to fete one of its partners, Cleta Mitchell, with a political star-studded event during the Republican National Convention.

Among politicians scheduled to speak or appear at the event, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 28 at the firm’s Tampa office: Sens. Kelly Ayotte, Jim DeMint, Jim Inhofe, Marco Rubio and former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association; Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union and Newsmax Publisher Chris Ruddy, are also slated to attend.

Mitchell’s practice, according to her bio, focuses on advising “corporations, nonprofit and issue organizations, candidates, campaigns, and individuals on state and federal campaign finance law, election law, and compliance issues related to lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure. She has also in the past lobbied for various clients including the Heritage FoundationEducational Testing Service and Alliance for Charitable Reform, federal records show.

ZAC BROWN BAND TO PLAY AMERICAN PETROLEUM EVENT AT RNC

The American Petroleum Institute is hosting a party Aug. 30 at the Republican National Convention. The event -hosted by API’s Vote4energ.org – is being dubbed the ‘Fueling the Future’ event, which will feature the Zac Brown Band. ‘We expect a huge crowd that may include some special guests from the campaign trail,’ write API’s spokesman Eric Wohlschlegel. PI hears those special guests may include members of the Romney family.

THE RNC IS COMING TO TOWN!

>>>The Committee on Arrangements, in charge of the political aspects of the Republican National Convention, announced the official session times for the convention at the Forum in downtown Tampa.

>>>Country singer-songwriter Rodney Atkins and a troupe of Busch Gardens acrobats will perform at the official welcome party Aug. 26 at Tropicana Field.

>>>Former presidential candidates Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann are among the speakers scheduled to appear at a Tampa church the day before the start of the Republican National Convention.

CLIFF STEARNS CONCEDES IN CD 3 RACE

Congressman Cliff Stearns on Wednesday conceded defeat to newcomer and tea party candidate Ted Yoho in the Republican primary for Congressional District 3, reports the News Service of Florida. Stearns, a 12- term incumbent who moved north to vie for sprawling district seat, was trailing the large animal veterinarian by 831 votes Wednesday afternoon in a nail biter of a primary for the district that runs from Alachua County northeast to Clay County. But after a night of number crunching and strategizing, the seasoned veteran threw in the towel.

“Based upon the results from last night, it would appear that there are not enough provisional ballots to make up the difference for me to win this primary election,” Stearns said in a statement released after he talked to Yoho. “Therefore, I am conceding the election to Ted Yoho and I talked with him wishing him the best in his effort to represent the wonderful people of north central Florida. I have had an excellent and rewarding experience working in Congress for my fellow Floridians.”

HOW TED YOHO PICK-OFFED STEARNS by Matt Dixon of the Florida Times-Union

How did a 12-term incumbent and chairman of Florida’s 25-member congressional delegation lose a GOP primary to a political neophyte?

Many involved in the campaign said Yoho simply outworked Stearns. The incumbent rarely made trips to local district events, and left $2 million collecting dust his campaign account. There were few indications that Stearns ran an active campaign.

“I did not see any of his signs here, and he was rarely here himself,” said Mary Lou Sharp, chair of the Suwanee County Republican Executive Committee, of Stearns. “Ted was here all the time. He was everywhere.”

TRANSPORTATION ADVOCATES PLEASED WITH MICA’S VICTORY by Keith Lang of The Hill

Transportation supporters are somewhat relieved Rep. John Mica won a member-versus-member primary that his opponent tried to turn into a referendum of road and transit funding.

But Mica is going to be term-limited out of his post as House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman in the next Congress, meaning any victory in his win over freshman Rep. Sandy Adams (R-Fla.) is likely to be purely symbolic for the transportation industry.

“From a policy perspective, I really don’t think it matters because Mica isn’t going to be T&I Chairman [in the next Congress],” Joshua Schank, president of the nonpartisan Eno Center for Transportation, said in an interview with The Hill.

ETHICS COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST KEITH FITZGERALD

Sarah Kennedy of the Bradenton Herald reports that Fitzgerald denied the allegation. He said the filing of the complaint was “sleazy.”

The complaint filed earlier this month by George Del Monte, 76, a retired engineer from Bradenton, alleges Fitzgerald, a former Florida House member from Sarasota, failed “to disclose his conflict of interest in voting on millions of dollars in taxpayer funds benefitting his employer, New College of Florida.”

The complaint also alleges Fitzgerald “voted on several budgets that provided New College with nearly $121 million and failed to disclose his conflict of interest,” as required by law.

Asked how he came to file the complaint, Del Monte said, “Frankly, I guess I’ve been sort of stewing in my own juices; I never did anything like that, but something just lit my fire.”

“It just set me on fire because I feel individuals are helpless, and by submitting a complaint, I multiplied myself; there’ll be more than one of us, sort of like a de facto member of the commission if they do something about this,” he said.

PATRICK MURPHY, ALLEN WEST SHIFT TO GENERAL ELECTION MODE by Nora McAlvanah of FLDemocracy2012.com

The candidates for Florida’s 18th District wasted no time shifting into general election mode on Wednesday, with Rep. Allen West calling for debates and Patrick Murphy taking to the airwaves.

On Wednesday, Murphy’s campaign released its first ad of the general election, a spot that attacks West for voting “to end Medicare as we know it.”

The 30-second spot, entitled “Twice,” uses a clip of West saying, “if you support Medicare the way it is now, you can kiss the United States of America goodbye.”

Meanwhile, West– who took some heat during the primary for refusing to debate his Republican challenger– on Wednesday called on Murphy to agree to four debates before the November election.

“To ensure the voters are provided an opportunity to hear exactly where you stand, I challenge you to a series of four debates: one debate in each of the three counties that encompass the 18th Congressional District, and the fourth debate in the geographical center of the district in Martin County,” West wrote in a letter to Murphy.

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JACK LATVALA UNDETERRED BY PRIMARY LOSSES

Despite the losses of two candidates he supported in Republican primaries Tuesday, Sen. Jack Latvala said he still believes he has enough votes to become Senate president in 2016, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.

“There’s not really much change. … I still have a couple vote margin, so it really doesn’t make much difference to me,” said Latvala who is in a fight with Sen. Joe Negron for the leadership position.

For his part, Negron said that after Tuesday’s voting, “the landscape looks very good for a conservative, pro-business Senate going forward.” Negron’s side has tried to position itself as a more conservative alternative to a group led by Latvala, who has shown a maverick streak since rejoining the Senate in 2010 after an eight-year absence.

ONE JAX INSIDER EXPLAINS WHY MIKE WEINSTEIN LOST (SO BADLY)

The easy answer will be to paint this as an establishment triumph. A win for Tallahassee money, if you will. But dig deeper and you’ll find a flawed candidate who’s struggled to find a home during his time in the Florida Legislature.

Mike Weinstein came into this race with baggage – losses incurred on city contracts he could be tied to, consulting fees from clients whose city contract he had previously overseen and dualing government paychecks ripe for exploitation. Aaron Bean showed an early willingness to “go there,” instead of handing Weinstein the charmed races he’s had in the past.  It worked.

FOCUS NOW TURNS TO BOGDANOFF V. SACHS, HUKILL VS. BRUNO

The polls had only been closed a few hours Tuesday night, but Sen. Joe Negron already was sending a message on Twitter about the upcoming general elections, reports Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.

“Next stop November and the Dorothy Hukill and Ellyn Bogdanoff campaigns,” tweeted the Stuart Republican, who is heavily involved in this year’s elections as he tries to build support to become Senate president in 2016.

Negron focused on perhaps the biggest legislative battlegrounds in the November elections. Hukill, a Republican House member from Port Orange, will face Volusia County Council Chairman Frank Bruno, a Democrat, in Senate District 8 in central Florida.

Meanwhile, redistricting has thrown together Bogdanoff, an incumbent Republican senator from Fort Lauderdale, and Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Boca Raton, in District 34 in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

RACE TO BE SPEAKER IN 2018 NARROWS by Mary Ellen Klas of the

On Tuesday, Miami Rep. Jose Oliva R-Miami Lakes, succeeded in electing more allies in his bid to become House speaker in 2018.

Two former state representatives who were also considering a speakership campaign, Carl Domino of West Palm Beach and Michael Grant of Bonita Springs, lost their primary bids to return to Tallahassee. Speculation is that Oliva’s two top challengers are now Dan Raulerson from Plant City and Halsey Balshears from Tallahassee. Both face Democratic challengers in the general election.

CARL DOMINO, MICHAEL GRANT FAIL IN EFFORTS TO RETURN TO STATE HOUSE

Among the many “retreads” — candidates who had previously served in the House or Senate, but have been out of office, mostly due to term limits — on their way back to the Florida House, Carl Domino and Michael Grant will not be among them.

Tequesta Republican MaryLynn Magar collected 42 percent of the vote Tuesday to win a five-way primary in House District 82, blocking former Rep. Carl Domino from returning to the House. Domino received 31 percent of the vote in the district, which includes parts of Martin and Palm Beach counties. Magar faces only a write-in candidate in the November general election.

Grant lost a GOP primary Tuesday in his bid to return to the House in a southwest Florida district. Estero Republican Ray Rodrigues won nearly 50 percent of the vote in a three-way primary in District 76 in Lee County. The primary decided the winner of the seat, as Rodrigues does not face opposition in the general election.

FLORIDA HOUSE TO INCLUDE FIRST OPENLY GAY LAWMAKER

David Richardson is about to become Florida’s first openly gay member of the Florida House of Representatives. … Richardson amassed 33 percent of the votes, for a total of 3,059 out of 9,260 votes.

Richardson said he’s a “realist” when it comes to the LGBT population he’ll be serving. “I feel strongly about equality. We have to get there by taking small steps. But my experience has shown me that we never make true progress until we sit at the table,” he said.

DEMOCRATS FOCUSING ON HD 49 & 63

Joe Saunders decisive win is a victory for House Victory and a defeat for certain activist elements in the Orange County DEC. Considering their were more votes in the Republican Primary in this seat, Saunders isn’t home free yet but still will be favored in the General Election.

Another race to keep an eye on is HD 63: Mark Danish has the perfect background and profile to challenge Shawn Harrison in November. His decisive win sets up a titanic battle in this Carrolwood-based seat that has trended towards the Democrats.

>>> Also keep an eye on District 7, where Monticello Republican Halsey Beshears and Bristol Democrat Robert Hill emerged from Tuesday’s primaries, and District 30, where Republican Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood faces a challenge from Maitland Democrat Karen Castor Dentel.

CARY PIGMAN, RANDY JOHNSON HEADER TO RECOUNT IN HD 55

In one of the tightest Republican races involving the Treasure Coast, Cary Pigman, of Avon Park, bested rival Randy Johnson of Sebring, by less than 30 votes as the two squared off for the state House District 55 seat that includes a portion of southern St. Lucie County, all of Okeechobee and Glades and part of Highlands County.

St. Lucie County supervisor of elections Gertrude Walker said because the candidates were separated by less than one-half of one percent, state elections officials will seek an automatic recount. St. Lucie County will conduct the recount Saturday, Walker said.

IN HD 68, DEMOCRAT DWIGHT DUDLEY ENDORSED BY FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE

Dwight Dudley, the Democratic nominee for House District 68, announced the endorsement of the Florida State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.

“As a criminal defense attorney, I work closely with our community’s law enforcement professionals, and I’m thrilled to have earned their endorsement,” said Dudley. “Protecting hardworking families and ensuring justice for Floridians are top priorities we share, and I look forward to working hard for them in Tallahassee.”

HOLLY RASCHEIN EASILY WINS HD 120 GOP PRIMARY

Former legislative aide Holly Merrill Raschein easily won a Republican primary Tuesday against former Key West Mayor Morgan McPherson, catapulting her into the November general election in House District 120. Raschein, of Key Largo, won 66 percent of the vote in the district, which includes Monroe County and part of Miami-Dade. She will face Key West Democrat Ian Whitney in the general election.

***Are you tired of getting your ASSETS TAXED OFF? Amendment 4 can help. Join the movement at TaxYourAssetsOff.com or check us out on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.*** 

CAN’T WAIT TO READ: The Price of Politics by Bob Woodward.

MEDIA NOTE: Senator Paula Dockery will assume the role of commentator with Tampa ABC television station anchor Brendan McLaughlin during the Republican National Convention Aug. 27-30.

NOT THE APPROVAL RATINGS YOU WANT: A new Gallup poll finds just 10% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, tying the lowest reading ever, while 83% disapprove. Meanwhile, a new DailyKos/Public Policy Polling survey finds 60% think it’s the worst Congress in history.

PERSONNEL NOTE: DEREK NEWTON TO BE VP OF THE CENTURY FOUNDATION

Derek Newton, a South Florida-based political consultant who recently completed a successful stint as Communications Director of the ACLU of Florida, is moving to the Big Apple to become Vice President of the one-hundred year-old Century Foundation, a progressive think tank with offices in DC and NYC.

SERIOUSLY: 1980’s New Wave band Devo released a new single celebrating Mitt Romney’s family dog, Seamus.

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.