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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 12.20.16

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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.


If you already know who you’re backing in 2018, you might be the only one.

A new Florida Chamber Political Institute poll found most Florida voters were undecided when it comes to the upcoming gubernatorial election. But with 685 days until Election Day 2018, it’s never too early to start ponder who will next take up residence in the Governor’s Mansion.

“It may seem that we have a long time before we need to address the election for Governor and Cabinet, but time will fly by and before we know it, we will be in the midst of campaigns that will affect Florida’s future,” wrote Marian Johnson, the executive director of the Florida Political Institute.

A bevy of names have already been bandied about. Gwen Graham, the one-term Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee, is considering a run. Ditto, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. The same goes for Democrats John Morgan, an Orlando trial attorney, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

But if the primaries were held today, “undecided” would come out the resounding victor.

According to the Florida Chamber’s survey, 45 percent of Democratic voters and 64 percent of Republican voters said they were “undecided” about the 2018 gubernatorial race.

If the Democratic primary was held today, the poll showed Graham would be locked in a tight race with Morgan. The poll found Graham received 16 percent support, followed by Morgan at 15 percent. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum would get 8 percent, while Buckhorn and Levine would each get 5 percent of the vote.

Four percent of Democrat voters said they’d back “someone else” in the 2018 primary.

When it comes to the GOP primary, the Florida Chamber found 22 percent of Republican voters said they would support Putnam.

The Republican would fare well in the general election, according to analysis by the Florida Chamber Political Institute. In a hypothetical head-to-head match-up, Putnam holds a small lead over both Graham and Morgan.

The survey found Putnam leads Graham 39 percent to 36 percent; while he leads Morgan 40 percent to 37 percent.

Those numbers are a flip of Gravis Marketing poll conducted for the Orlando Political Observer that showed the Democrats holding slight edges in head-to-head races. In that poll, Graham led Putnam 37 percent to 34 percent in a hypothetical match-up; while Morgan led Putnam 39 percent to 35 percent.

But really at this point, anyone who has truly decided who they are voting for is probably related to a 2018 hopeful … or clairvoyant.

AND WE’LL SEE YOU IN 2017: The team that produces Sunburn will be enjoying a long winter’s nap through the holidays. Sunburn will return to inboxes January 2.

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DAYS UNTIL: Shopping days until Christmas – 4; FSU vs. Michigan/Orange Bowl – 10; Inauguration Day – 30; Super Bowl – 47; Pitchers & catchers start reporting for Spring Training – 56; Start of 2017 Legislative Session – 87: Election Day 2017 – 321: Election Day 2018 – 688.

WITH HELP FROM FLORIDA’S 29 ELECTORAL VOTES, DONALD TRUMP GETS 270 NEEDED TO BECOME PRESIDENT via Steve Bousquet and Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – The ceremony ended weeks of efforts by disappointed and angry voters across the country who wrote letters, fired off emails, filed lawsuits and finally staged protests in an effort to prevent Trump from becoming the nation’s 45th president Jan. 20, 2017. “I know it was a long hard haul,” said Rep. Blaise Ingoglia … chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, as he thanked fellow electors for standing by Trump despite the many “harassing” messages. “We were part of history.” About 200 demonstrators assembled in the rotunda outside as electors gathered in the state Capitol’s newly remodeled Senate chamber in a ceremony under the direction of Gov. Scott‘s chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner. Florida’s awarding of electors to Trump was celebrated — inside the Senate chamber. Seated in alphabetical order, each of the 29 electors cast separate paper ballots for Trump and for Vice President-elect Mike Pence. They applauded loudly when Detzner announced the anticlimactic results.

— “You’re hired! Trump picks Florida Panthers owner for Army Secretary” via John Pacenti of the Palm Beach Post

GWEN GRAHAM, IN FINAL NEWS CONFERENCE, CLAIMS $2.5 MILLION IN BENEFITS TO CONSTITUENTS via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – “Our office is an example that you can get a lot done and still be fiscally conservative,” the Democrat said during a news conference at Tallahassee City Hall, where she maintains a district office. Aides said it would be her final meeting with reporters before leaving office early next year. “We made constituent service or No. 1 priority,” Graham said. So much so that she has discussed its importance with Neal Dunn, the Republican from Panama City elected in November to replace Graham in a radically redistricted Congressional District 2. “I will work with him on that,” Graham said. “I hope he continues that focus on constituent services. Because, of all the things you do in Congress, there is nothing more important that helping people back home. I have had that conversation with him I know that, in his heart, he wants to do the same.” Graham said her office helped constituents secure $489,000 in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits; $293,000 in Veterans Affairs benefits; $118,000 from the IRS; and $100,000 in Deepwater Horizon claims. Of her office’s operating budget, Graham in prepared remarks that, “with smart management, government can provide essential services to help people while also being fiscally responsible.”

ALAN GRAYSON: FLORIDA DEMOCRATS NEED SOMEONE WITH A MESSAGE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Grayson is wrapping up his third and, for now, final term as a Democratic congressman from Orlando, a never apologetic liberal lion with perhaps as much name recognition in California and New York as he does in Florida. While looking ahead to his announced plans to run a legal or Florida constitutional amendment campaign to restore civil rights for felons, Grayson also reflected on his own accomplishments, his collapsed campaign for the U.S. Senate, and his opinions for what it would take for the Florida Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee, and other Democratic establishments to win. Grayson is calling, really wishing, for a new approach …  “Unless there is substantial structural change, the Blue Dogs will continue to make the argument that a populist Democrat, or for that matter a progressive Democrat, which is not exactly the same thing, has no chance of winning – because that’s the way they continue to dominate the statewide machinery,” Grayson said. “Even though they’ve been proved wrong in every single race except for Alex Sink’s race for CFO, every single race for a quarter century.” … “There are populist issues that would actually bring the whole state together and galvanize the groups that we did extremely poorly with in the national election, for instance high school dropouts, where the Democratic Party got wiped out,” Grayson said. “The polls showed Bernie did 40 points better than Clinton with high school dropouts. 40.”

— “The Democratic Party: Evolution or Extinction” via Scott Arceneaux for Medium

FEA FACE-SLAPS DWIGHT BULLARD, ENDORSES MEGADONOR STEPHEN BITTEL via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – The Florida Education Association added its name to the growing list of names supporting his bid for Miami-Dade Democratic Party State Committeeman, a springboard position to take the reins of the struggling FDP. In the endorsement, the FEA called Bittel a “strong advocate” for Florida’s teachers and education professionals. “A product of the Miami-Dade Public Schools, his commitment to protecting and improving our public-school system is well-established,” said the FEA. “Stephen Bittel’s progressive values are displayed in his actions and with every campaign and issue he champions. We believe that Stephen has the best combination of experience and leadership to help rebuild the Florida Democratic Party.” The FEA sent a rallying cry to its 140,000 members, asking them to join in their support for Bittel. Bittel, whose wife is a teacher, vowed to make the party inclusive and representative of “all Florida Democrats” … “We’ve received the support of South Florida progressives because they understand what’s at stake and they want a Democratic Party leader who isn’t afraid to shake things up to ensure more voices are heard and more Florida Democrats win elections,” said the candidate for Miami Dade Democratic State Committeeman.

FOURTH TIME FILING BILL, SENATOR HOPES SURVIVING CHILD ABUSE VICTIM WILL GET MONEY OWED via Sasha Cordner of WFSU – Victor Barahona already received $1.25 million for the abuse he suffered at the hands of his adoptive parents, under the state child welfare agency’s supervision. His twin sister, Nubia, didn’t survive. Now, through a claims bill, Sen. Anitere Flores … is seeking to get Victor $3.75 million—the rest of the agreed settlement with the Florida Department of Children and Families. “It should be one of the poster childs of why we have claims cases,” Flores said. “There is a small opportunity or the state to try and help the life of this child, the brother who survived. I’m hopeful that we’re able to do that. And, so, I won’t stop fighting, until we do that. I do think that this year will be a little bit more open to claims bills.” Since it’s her fourth consecutive year filing the bill, Flores is hopeful it’ll pass in 2017. And, she says it doesn’t hurt she’s now the Senate President’s Second-in-Command. “I think that it helps … the facts of this case are just very compelling and they pull at the heartstrings of anybody that hears it,” Flores added. Flores calls the claims bill “a top priority.” So far, there’s no House sponsor.

EDITORIAL: facKEEP PARTISAN REVENGE OUT OF STATE CONSTITUTION via the South Florida Sun Sentinel – Florida voters had to be aware of a sneaky constitutional amendment this year. They may have to be even more informed and focused in 2018. The 2016 subterfuge was an amendment related to solar energy that advertised itself as consumer-friendly. In fact, Florida’s investor-owned utilities financed the amendment with $26 million in hopes of securing a monopoly on solar power. Voters, however, wised up. The amendment fell far short of the 60 percent needed for approval. For 2018, the looming danger is amendments that seek to undermine Florida’s independent judiciary. This issue may not sound as sexy as energy from the sun, but it’s far more important. Florida is the only state in which an appointed body — the Constitution Revision Commission — can put amendments on the ballot without court review. The 37-member commission meets every 20 years, and the next iteration starts in 2017 to decide which amendments — if any — go on the 2018 ballot. Though he claims that conservatives “get the separation of powers,” [RichardCorcoran is not acting like such a conservative. He wants to make the Florida Supreme Court subservient to the Legislature because he opposes the court’s rulings on, to name a few, school vouchers, workers’ compensation insurance and, especially, redistricting. In 2010, voters approved constitutional amendments that prohibited the Legislature from drawing gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts to favor parties and incumbents. Last year, the groups that sponsored the amendments successfully challenged the congressional and state Senate maps the Republican-controlled Legislature drew in 2012. Both amendments got nearly 63 percent of the vote. Evidence showed that, despite promises of transparency, Republican leaders had worked in secret with party operatives to draw maps that favored the GOP. The legal challenge ensured that the amendments would work as voters intended. Corcoran now wants the Constitutional Revision Commission to go after “bad decisions” — translation: his side lost — by the Florida Supreme Court. He wants proposals to neuter the Fair Districts Amendments and impose 12-year-term limits on Supreme Court justices. It takes 22 votes to get an amendment on the ballot. We don’t know what the commission will produce. Based on the early comments, however, we know that there’s reason for Floridians to start worrying and stay informed.

WEATHER CHANNEL EXPOSÉ UNFAIRLY BASHES SUGAR INDUSTRY FOR ALGAE, CRITICS SAY via Kim Miller of the Palm Beach Post – A documentary published this month about the summer’s widespread algae outbreak faces criticism from scientists, fishermen and farmers who say it pins too much blame on Florida’s sugar industry, and paints an inaccurate picture of Lake Okeechobee as a bubbling cesspool of “radioactive fish.” The piece, titled “Toxic Lake – The Untold Story of Lake Okeechobee,” delves deep into Florida’s calamitous decision to reroute its natural plumbing system, as well as the robust lobbying efforts and political prowess of Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar. But critics argue the 10-page article and 11-minute video pay less attention to the unusual weather that super-charged the algae growth over the summer, or to where the pollution that seeded the St. Lucie River slime originates. The story, which can be found at is labeled an investigation by The Weather Channel. “It just seemed like there were a lot of things in the story pointing back to sugar, and that is a distraction,” said Nyla Pipes, executive director of the One Florida Foundation, a nonprofit group focusing on water issues. “People want a boogeyman, but it’s a disservice to Floridians because you can’t point fingers at one industry.”

WHAT DEAN CANNON IS READING – DENTAL CARE VENDOR LOSES TRADE SECRETS CASE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Circuit Judge Karen Gievers of Tallahassee last week ruled against Managed Care of North America (MCNA Dental). She ordered the company to divulge certain records to Delta Dental. MCNA now must give up the names and locations of the dentists it contracts with … Delta was one of four companies to bid on providing kids’ dental services, and the only one to lose. It filed a public records request with Florida Healthy Kids Corp., which manages the contract. MCNA learned of the request and objected. Half of its score was based on its provider network — essentially the depth of its bench — and MCNA said disclosing that info would divulge “trade secrets.” But the info is publicly available, in bits and pieces through specific searches, on its website. Delta said it wanted “access to MCNA’s network data in the exact format that it was submitted to (Healthy Kids)” to independently verify its bid. “If the information was not accurately presented or formatted, a small variation in office address, county or office hours can result in duplicate counting of providers,” its filing said.

APPOINTEDStuart Kaplan and Lucille Turner to the Florida Board of Optometry.

LONGTIME BUSINESS LOBBYIST LAMENTS LOSS OF ‘SMOKE-FILLED ROOMS’ IN WASHINGTON via Carl Hulse of The New York Times – As executive vice president for government affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, [BruceJosten, 66, was the point man for business interests in a slew of heavy-duty trade, tax and energy negotiations … a master at the inside game. After more than 30 years in the Beaux-Arts-style chamber headquarters across Lafayette Square from the White House, Josten is now in his own transition, retiring after helping turn the chamber into a political powerhouse and watching his specialty – sophisticated legislative give-and-take – become less prized in a polarized capital. … “I actually do miss the smoke-filled rooms of yesteryear,” said Josten … “Because you got a lot done.”

DEMOCRATIC WOMEN MORE LIKELY TO HIT THE UNFRIEND BUTTON OVER POLITICS via Leslie Clark for the Bradenton Herald – Only 13 percent of the public blocked, unfriended, or stopped following someone on social media because of a political posting, a new survey from PRRI found. There were sharp divisions among those who took offense: 24 percent of Democrats say they took action after a post angered them, compared to just 9 percent of Republicans and independents who reported eliminating people from their social media circle. Political liberals were far more likely than conservatives to say they removed someone from their social media circle because of what they shared online: 28 percent to 8 percent. Just 11 percent of moderates said they took action against a friend for a posting. Women were twice as likely as men to report unfriending: 18 percent to 9 percent. Three in 10 or 30 percent of Democratic women say they removed an individual from their online social network because of a political opinion they expressed, while only 14 percent of Democratic men did so. Republican men and women were equal when it came to blocking or unfollowing friends: 10 percent versus 8 percent. The poll also found that 5 percent of Americans plan to shun family because of their political views. Democrats, however, are five times more likely than Republicans to say they are trying to avoid certain family members because of their political views, the poll found with 10 percent of Democrats avoiding a family members, compared to just 2 percent of Republicans.

CONGRATULATIONS TO ANDREW FAY – The Legislative and Policy Specialist for Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office received The Florida Bar’s 2016 Government Attorney of the Year award for his service to the victims of the attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. In her weekly newsletter, Bondi thanked him “for his unwavering service and dedication to the people of Florida and those affected by the tragedy.”

CHRISTMAS CARD FUN via GrayRobinson:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the future mayor of St. Petersburg, Greg Holden.

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.

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