Sunburn for 8/9 – 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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CLINTON MACHINE GETS READY via ABC News

Just beneath the surface, and without evidence of direct involvement by the Clintons themselves, a Clinton machine is whirring to life. A series of self-started, independent ventures are adding up to a sweeping effort to unite all levels of the Democratic establishment behind a candidacy that backers hope and trust they’ll have a chance to support.

Several people close to the Clinton camp insist there is no puppet-master coordinating political efforts for the former secretary of state. That means that while some of what’s being done is for Clinton’s benefit, it’s less clear that it’s being done on her behalf.

But a series of prominent Democrats aligned with the Clintons — Harold Ickes, James Carville, Ann Lewis, Cheryl Mills, and Craig Smith among them — are acting as facilitators, channeling friends and allies toward entities that are working for a possible candidacy, according to numerous Democrats in and around the Clinton orbit.

JOBLESS BENEFITS CLAIMS FALL TO PRE-RECESSION LEVELS

A four-week average of new claims for state jobless benefits dropped last week to its lowest level since before the Great Recession, Reuters reports. The Labor Department said today that the average of claims fell to 335,500, a number last seen in November 2007, signifying that a long streak of layoffs may finally be ending. But economists once again cautioned that this small break in the clouds doesn’t mean that nothing but sunny skies are ahead, and said employers are still hiring at a laggard pace. “The overall economy and the labor market are improving at a moderate pace,” said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at brokerage firm Sterne Agee & Leach in Chicago. 

NATE SILVER THINKS THE MIDTERM ELECTIONS WILL BE BORING via Deadspin

Silver said he doesn’t expect to write much about elections over the next few years because they won’t be very compelling.

“You look at where the news cycle is going and I’m kind of aware that 2016, I think, will be fascinating, but I’ll be frank. I think 2014 midterm will be dull as compared to other most recent elections,” said Silver. “There’s not much at stake where we know that GOP’s gonna control one branch of Congress–almost for sure–and we know Obama’s in the White House through 2016, so you don’t have really control of all of DC at stake and that makes it less compelling.”

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RON DESANTIS: A CONSERVATIVE WHO CAN IMPACT FLORIDA FOR YEARS TO COME via Jeff Henderson of Sunshine State News

There’s a conservative star rising in Florida by the name of Ron DeSantis. Despite being in only his first months in Congress, DeSantis has shown an ability to generate attention, winning national attention for leading the fight to remove Eric Holder and kicking off efforts to amend the Constitution to prevent Congress from making any law which exempts its own members. DeSantis has an impressive background. Originally from Jacksonville, he went to Yale as a undergrad before studying law at Harvard. He joined the Navy, serving in the JAG Corps and with the SEALs. After marrying Jacksonville television personality Casey Black, DeSantis left the service in 2010 and returned home and won an open congressional seat in 2012, destroying an impressive field of Republican primary opponents and routing Democrat Heather Beaven in the process. DeSantis showed a knack for getting the endorsements of prominent Republicans at both the state and national levels.  …Only 33, DeSantis has to be included in future political calculations…. While he’s only been in the House for barely seven months, DeSantis is turning out to be a gifted politician and a strong conservative. Wherever his path takes him, DeSantis appears headed to being a major political player in Florida for decades to come….

SPOILER ALERT: AIR FORCE WILL STRONGLY BACK THE F-35 IN QUADRENNIAL DEFENSE REVIEW via contributor Karen Cyphers

Every four years, the Department of Defense is reviewed in the legislatively-mandated Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), from which a long-term course is defined and DoD strategies are rebalanced to address tomorrow’s conflicts and threats.  In the upcoming 2014 review, “everything is on the table”… well, everything except for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that is, according to Air Force QDR director Maj. Gen. Steven Kwast.  On Wednesday, Kwast addressed the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank in DC, and made clear that the continued development of the F-35 remains an Air Force priority and would not be canceled without a presidential order to do so.  Kwast further threw cold water on the idea that the Air Force move away from manned aircraft, stating that while remotely piloted aircraft are useful for intelligence and surveillance missions, these technologies are not a cure-all as they won’t survive contested airspace.

To Kwast and others, the F-35 gives the US unprecedented comparative advantage against “any potential adversary”, and unlike previous aircraft that specialized in providing one primary capability, the F-35 keeps us well ahead of our enemy. The news of continued Air Force support for the F-35 program may be no surprise to the team at Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base, which has the largest fleet of the fighters and where 72 pilots are slated to graduate F-35 transition pilot training by the end of this year.  

TWEET, TWEET: @GwenForCongress: Hitting the campaign trail at 5:30am requires a nutritional breakfast #whataburger

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RICK SCOTT RAISING MONEY IN CRIST COUNTRY via Adam Smith of Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott will headline an Aug. 20 fundraising reception in Clearwater for his Let’s Get to Work Committee. It’s a low-dollar, $100-per-percent reception hosted by Debbie and Lee Arnold. The host committee includes Larry Ahern, Ed Armstrong, Jay Beyrouti, Herb Brown, Alan Bomstein, Joe Burdett, Frank Chivas, Marsha and Ed Drose, Ed Hooper, Kathleen Peters, and Tom Shelly.

WAS INDICTED MAYOR ON SCOTT’S LG SHORTLIST?

In addition to Pam Bondi (yes, Bondi), Palm Beach County Mayor Steve Abrams and former U.S. Senator George LeMieux, indicted Sweetwater Mayor Manuel “Manny” Marono was on the proverbial short list to be Rick Scott’s next Lieutenant Governor, according to a well-connected source (connected enough to help me scoop that Tony Bennett was resigning).

Hard to believe that Scott was considering someone who turned out be involved in a bribery-and-kickback scheme, right?

Marono was a high-profile supporter of Scott. According to the Miami Herald, Marono threw his support behind Scott during his gubernatorial campaign, and Scott later asked him to be part of his transition team.

Scott visited Sweetwater to swear Maroño in when he was reelected after running for mayor unopposed in 2011.

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DREAM DEFENDERS SET GOAL OF REGISTERING 61,550 VOTERS, OR SCOTT’S MARGIN OF VICTORY via Matt Dixon of the Florida Times-Union

Dream Defenders, the group that has been holding a sit-in in Gov. Rick Scott’s office for 24 days, Thursday rolled out plans to registered 61,550 new voters, the margin Scott won by in 2010.

“We intend to register the people who are forgotten,” said Philip Agnew, the group’s executive director. “The black, the brown, the indignant.”

The organization will use its chapters at universities and colleges across the state to spur the registration drive. Agnew insisted the group is non-partisan so would not rely on voter groups that supported President Barack Obama’s re-election bid.

“You can’t ignore the fact other folks will be doing the same thing, and we will do everything we can to partner with like-minded organizations,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we are not blue or red,” he said.

The announcement came during a news conference where the group also presented talking points related to what it’s calling “Florida’s Trayvon’s Law.” The proposal is named after Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old who was shot and killed in Seminole County by George Zimmermann.

STATE PARTIES SNIPE AT EACH OTHER OVER RPOF’S REQUEST FOR SCOTT’S MINORITY APPOINTMENTS via Matt Dixon of the Florida Times-Union

The state political parties – never short of reasons to gripe at each other – are going back and forth about the state GOP’s request for a list of all racial minorities Gov. Rick Scott has appointed to various offices.

The request, made by the party’s political director, did not go through the office’s Open Government office, which normally does legal review of records requests. The Florida Democratic Party noticed.

“In the latest scandal, Rick Scott’s Republican Party of Florida has been caught getting information on the Governor’s minority appointees through back-channel methods,” said Scott Areceneaux, FDP’s executive director.

“Has RPOF used their back-channel methods that skirt public records procedures to obtain information for other third-party groups?” the statement continues.

In a response replete with positive tid-bits about Scott’s record, the Republican Party of Florida shot back.

“We, like any other organization, can request public records in the State of Florida through means provided to the rest of the public,” wrote Susan Hepworth, the party’s spokeswoman.

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FRANK BROGAN, FLORIDA’S LOSS via Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News

Frank Brogan has some ear for opportunity. When it knocks, he knows just when to open the door and let it in. Trust me. He’s got a knack for it. Brogan was always going places. It’s just that when he was younger and climbed the career ladder in an eye-blink, we all sneered and said, ain’t he the ambitious one. Now he quits the vaunted Florida chancellor’s job, and I’m hearing it called a cagey, cushy move to double-dip in two states.  Yet, I can think of few public-trough feeders who accomplished as much on every rung of the ladder, or who the state of Florida will miss more than they will Frank Brogan. This man is the real deal.   I was there in the background in 1978, on his first day of teaching at Port Salerno Elementary, the school our two youngest children attended at the time. Frank Brogan, 25, stuck out like a cravat on a rack full of clip-ons. He was immaculate and tanned, he had a big, bright smile for everybody, and — never mind that he was the new face on the faculty — he somehow found a way to resolve everybody’s problem in the corridor that morning. He was a tower. Sure enough, it took him just a single decade to ascend from that little neighborhood school to elected schools superintendent. All thanks to his old friend opportunity. It kept knocking, Brogan kept answering. Along the way his feats in the various schools he served were legend — from talking a middle school student into handing over his loaded gun, to working with his wife Mary, an educator herself, on organizing charity events for the children of Martin County’s hidden poor. By anybody’s standards, Frank Brogan was a rising star in the Martin County of the 1980s.  … Sure, we can find another university chancellor, but we will never replace Frank Brogan… Full column here.

JOHN DELANEY NOT INTERESTED IN CHANCELLOR JOB via the News Service of Florida

University of North Florida President John Delaney is not interested in replacing Frank Brogan as chancellor of the state university system, according to the Financial News & Daily Record in Jacksonville. Delaney, a former Jacksonville mayor, served a stint in the past as interim chancellor. “I am not interested in the permanent position, and it has not been offered,” Delaney told the Financial News & Daily Record in an email. 

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COULD FASANO’S EXIT TIP BALANCE OF POWER FOR SENATE PRESIDENCY? via Steve Bosquet and Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times

Ex-Rep. Mike Fasano’s appointment as Pasco County tax collector didn’t just end his legislative career. It put an end to an intriguing scenario that he might have sought a return to the Senate by taking on fellow Republican Sen. Wilton Simpson next year — which would have improved Sen. Jack Latvala’s chances of becoming Pinellas County’s first Senate president. Fasano shares Latvala’s moderate philosophy and he’s very popular in Pasco, so Simpson would have been in trouble. But Fasano says Simpson is “doing a wonderful job” and never seriously considered a Senate run, though he said there was “a big push by some people.”

Simpson and the other 25 GOP senators must choose between Latvala and Sen. Joe Negron for the presidency in 2016, following Sen. Andy Gardiner of Orlando. The Latvala-Negron race is described as close.  Simpson is complicating the Latvala-Negron battle by holding out, at least publicly.

DOLPHINS OWNER THROWS BARBS, GETS SACKED BY MIAMI LAWMAKERS

The Miami Herald‘s Marc Caputo reposted the op-ed by State Representatives Carlos Trujillo and Michael Bileca, who have been targeted by Miami Dolphins owner Steven Ross for opposing the team’s publicly financed stadium plans.   In sum, the two Miami legislators Ross his lunch, blasting the tycoon for his part in engineering dishonest political attacks against legislators who defended South Florida taxpayers last session in denying (as the public already had) Ross’ request for free taxpayer money.

“As elected representatives for the families of South Florida, our focus is, and will remain, protecting families’ hard-earned tax dollars and improving the quality of life in our state,” they wrote…. “Ross is free to spend his personal fortune on political attack ads if he wishes, but if he instead invested some of his wealth on the stadium he owns, perhaps he wouldn’t have to try to bully South Florida families into giving him more of their hard-earned tax dollars.”

DON GAETZ ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE — BUT HE WOULDN’T MIND IF THE DREAM DEFENDERS DID

In two Thursday news blips, Senate President Don Gaetz both announced that he is happy with his job and isn’t going anywhere… and that he would prefer if the sit-in Stand your Ground protestors would leave the Capitol. Specifically, as reported by Matthew Beaton of the News Herald, Gaetz said that he has no interest in replacing Tony Bennett as commissioner of education, Frank Brogran as university chancellor, or running for any other elective office.   

In the same talk at the Rotary Club of Panama City Northside, Beaton also reported on Gaetz’ concern with the amount of money it is costing Florida taxpayers to provide extra security at the Capital due to the Dream Defenders sit-in. Gaetz stated that while the protestors have a constitutional right to speak their mind, they do not have the right to impede the business of the Capitol… and, Gaetz said, “so far they’re not.”

FHSAA CRITIC STARGEL APPOINTED TO ADVISORY PANEL via the News Service of Florida

Foiled in her attempt to pass a bill overhauling the Florida High School Athletic Association, state Sen. Kelli Stargel has been appointed to a panel set up to help the public have input into the association’s operations. Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, appointed Stargel to the Florida High School Athletic Association Public Liaison Advisory Committee. … Stargel sponsored a controversial bill that would have given state lawmakers more control over the association and called for other changes, such as expanding the ability of students to transfer schools during the school year. The bill died at the end of this year’s legislative session. 

OTHER GAETZ APPOINTMENTS

On Thursday, President Gaetz announced that he appointed Sen. Anitere Flore to the Southern States Energy Board, Sen. John Legg to the Education Commission of the States; and Sen. Bill Montford to the Workforce Florida, Inc., Board of Directors,

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BILL GUNTER BECOMES FIRST TO FILE TO REPLACE MIKE FASANO IN HD 36…

Republican Bill Gunter is the first to file his paperwork for the recently open House District 36. In a release, Gunter said he would be an “honest and an advocate for the people of West Pasco County.”

“I believe that we need someone from our area that looks out for the ‘little guy’ like Representative Fasano has for years. I definitely fit that mold,” Gunter said, “I experience the challenges and frustrations that people face every day whether it is rising utility rates or property insurance premiums, I want to be someone you can count on to do what is right in Tallahassee.”

… BUT HE DOESN’T YET LIVE IN THE DISTRICT via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times

Now if only Gunter lived in District 36, which covers parts of coastal Pasco, the Republicans might really have something.

Turns out, Gunter lives further inland, about five miles away, or a 10-minute drive, from the district boundary. It’s a geographical quirk that kind of makes him the “outsider” candidate for the constituents of District 36. He really lives in District 37, which is firmly held by Corcoran.

For Gunter, residency isn’t a major issue. He said he plans to move by the date of the special election, which he said should be in eight to 10 weeks.

… When he moves, he said he doesn’t plan to sell his Roundelay Drive home, which he bought in 2003. He explained that he might lose next year in the regular election, in which case he would move back. He plans to move to a rental somewhere in District 36.

“Lord willing, if I win again, then it would be wise for me to settle down,” Gunter said.

But what if he loses this year? Will he be forced to live in a district he doesn’t represent because he had to make arrangements in case he won? Gunter said he’s still working out the details.

EDWARD NELSON TO CHALLENGE JOE SAUNDERS IN HD 49 via The News Service of Florida

Orlando Republican Edward Nelson Rodriguez opened an account to run next year against freshman Rep. Joe Saunders in House District 49. As of June 30, Saunders had raised $14,280 for the race, according to campaign-finance information posted online. 

SATURDAY FUNDRAISER SET FOR SEAN SHAW

Sean Shaw, one of four Democrats running for House District 61, invites you to a fundraising reception in support of his campaign on Saturday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.  Join him at the Tampa Convention Center, Room 24, at 333 S. Franklin Street.

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FMA’S BUSINESS OF MEDICINE SURVEY REVEALS FLORIDA PHYSICIANS’ TOP CONCERNS

The results of a recent Florida Medical Association (FMA) survey reveal that reducing burdensome regulations, increasing payment for physician services and bringing more fairness to the medical liability system are the top concerns of the state’s physicians. They are also adjusting to a rapidly changing practice landscape in the wake of the Affordable Care Act. Those are among the findings of the FMA’s Business of Medicine Quarterly Index Survey, which was conducted in July to identify the Florida doctors’ biggest concerns as well as the trends that are shaping medical practice.  

When asked what could be done at the state level to help them practice medicine, respondents identified reducing burdensome regulations (30.34%), increasing payment for physician services (22.47%) and bringing more fairness to the medical liability system (16.85%) as the top three issues. One physician said, “Sometimes all the rules and regulations get to be just too much to cope with.”

Other key findings: 69.77% have implemented electronic medical records; More than a quarter of physicians say that EMRs have improved the quality of care; Another 10% of respondents say that EMRs have not improved quality of care but anticipate that they will eventually; and 40.41% percent of practices and physician employers are embracing or looking into alternative models such as Accountable Care Organizations and medical homes. To view additional findings from the FMA’s Business of Medicine Quarterly Index Survey, click here

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LOBBYIST RICHARD CANDIA’S ARREST IN KICKBACK SCANDAL SURPRISES THOSE WHO KNOW HIM via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

Richard Candia, the center of a kickback and bribery scandal that resulted in the arrests of two mayors, was known to fellow South Florida lobbyists as a shy, clean-cut, honest person… FBI recordings show Candia was a schemer and bribe-carrying bagman who readily recruited Sweetwater Mayor Manny Moroño and Miami Lakes Mayor Mike Pizzi into the alleged scheme.  Candia got his start in politics as a legislative aide to then-state Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, and then went on to lobby. His clients included Moroño and Pizzi’s cities, the University of Miami and Florida International University. Candia was hired at Becker along with his partner, Jose Fuentes.

In 2011, Candia joined the Fuentes Rodriguez Consulting Group. Candia reported lobbying compensation of $40,000 to $70,000 from the city of Sweetwater in 2011 and between $20,000 to $50,000 in 2012 for both legislative and executive branch lobbying. In 2012, Candia reported being paid by Miami Lakes between $20,000 and $50,000.

WEEKEND TV

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Sharon Calvert w/ the Tea Party, Mitch Perry of Creative Loafing, Wayne Garcia, and Nadine Smith of Equality Florida.

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

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster

The Usual Suspects on Tallahassee’s WCTV: Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida

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DR. SANJAY GUPTA ON “WHY I CHANGED MY MIND ON WEED” via contributor Karen Cyphers

As medicinal marijuana advocates up their efforts in Florida, it would be the stuff of their dreams for a physician celebrity to announce a change of heart on the matter.  And today, that happened. In a feature piece for CNN titled, “Why I changed my mind on weed” chief medical correspondent and neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta shared his yearlong transformation of opinion on the medical use of marijuana, and describes his feeling that Americans have been “terribly and systematically misled” on its potentials.  Gupta had long been an opponent of medicinal marijuana, and penned an article for TIME magazine in 2009 stating as such.

“Well, I am here to apologize,” he wrote in Thursday’s story. “I apologize because I didn’t look hard enough, until now. I didn’t look far enough. I didn’t review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis. Instead, I lumped them with the high-visibility malingerers, just looking to get high. I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof.”  Full blog post here.

FEW WOULD WANT INTERVENTION TO LIVE TO 120, BUT MOST SEE MEDICAL ADVANCES AS GOOD via contributor Karen Cyphers

Stephen King wrote in The Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”  And according to a study just released, most Americans don’t balk at either. While only 38% of Americans would themselves want medical treatments that slow the aging process and allow them to live decades longer to at least 120 years, roughly two-thirds (68%) think that most other people would want to do so.   This was one of many findings presented in a comprehensive public opinion study published Tuesday by the Pew Research Center,  which examined Americans’ attitudes about aging, health care, life satisfaction, and other bioethical issues.

According to this study, Americans are generally optimistic regarding their own old age, with 81% satisfied with the way things are going in their lives.  About 56% feel that 10 years from now their lives will be even better, and 28% assume that things will continue just about the same.  While younger adults are more optimistic, about one-quarter of respondents over the age of 65 say they expect their lives to be better in a decade and 43% assume things will be about the same. While about half of respondents said that radical life extension methods would be “bad for society” (51%) , most are not particularly worried about the gradual rise in the number of older Americans.   About 90% said that “having more elderly people in the population” is either good for society or does not make much of a difference, with just 10% seeing this trend as negative.  Further, 63% see life-prolonging medical advances as generally good, and 54% see these advances as worth the costs. It does appear that as people age, they think that life should last longer:  While 19% of respondents ages 18-29 would be happiest living to age 78 or under, this ratio drops dramatically as age brackets rise. Among adults 65 and older just 6% would be prefer to die by 78.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Hillsborough County Commissioner and former State Representative Sandy Murman.

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.