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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 8.31.17

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My sincere apologies for the tardiness of today’s Sunburn. Tuesday’s elections in St. Petersburg has me exhausted, while the approaching holiday has me yearning to get out and play. Marc Caputo’s Playbook is on vacation, so I think Sunburn will be on vacation tomorrow, too. But we will still deliver tonight’s Last Call and this weekend’s Takeaways from Tallahassee, so it’s not like we’re playing hooky.

Sunburn will return to inboxes next Tuesday. 


Florida insider poll: Who is the true conservative in the mix for governor?” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – We asked nearly 200 of Florida best informed political players whether the most “genuine conservative” is Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, state Sen. Jack Latvala, or Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. The clear winner of that title, with 41 percent, was DeSantis, followed by Corcoran, with 29 percent, Putnam with 24 percent and Latvala with 6 percent. We also asked our insiders to predict what the primary fields will actually look like a year from now. Less than 17 percent doubted Corcoran and Latvala would be on the primary ballot, while nearly 40 percent doubted DeSantis would be. A whopping 99 percent expect Putnam to be on the ballot. Fully half of our Insiders think another candidate will join the GOP field, while only one in five expect another major Democratic candidate for governor besides Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Chris King, Philip Levine or John Morgan will emerge. In fact, nearly two-thirds expect Gillum – whose campaign has been stymied by a pending FBI investigation into Tallahassee City Hall – will be on the ballot in 2018, and nearly two-thirds doubt Morgan – who has yet to commit to running – will end up on the ballot.

Assignment editors Putnam will join the Republicans of Hardee County to keynote their annual Reagan Day Dinner, which begins 6:30 p.m. at Florida’s First Assembly of God Family Life Center, 1397 S. Florida Ave. in Wauchula.

Save the date:

Without official endorsement, Rick Scott heaps praise on Jay Fant over Enterprise Florida” via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News – Fant didn’t officially receive an endorsement from Gov. Rick Scott for his bid to be Florida’s next Attorney General, but the governor didn’t waste time doing anything but praise Fant in Jacksonville Wednesday. Speaking at a recent Enterprise Florida meeting, Scott praised the Jacksonville Republican for being a leader in the governor’s fight to keep state economic agency Enterprise Florida alive during this year’s legislative session.“There are not a lot of people in the Legislature that stood up for us and talked vocally about their support of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida,” Scott said. “Jay Fant was one of the few, and I want to thank Jay for doing that and I wish all luck in your next endeavor.”

As Donald Trump talks taxes, Republican group pushes Carlos Curbelo to act” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald – American Action Network, a group aligned with House leadership, is releasing mailers in 34 congressional districts across the country with the aim of reaching 1 million voters. In addition to Curbelo, a member of the House tax writing committee, the mailers will target Treasure Coast Rep. Brian Mast. The mailer argues that America’s tax code leads to U.S. companies relocating jobs to China. “Thousands of good-paying jobs are fleeing to countries like China, the status quo is failing, and it is leaving America’s middle class behind,” said American Action Network executive director Corry Bliss. “Americans are ready to see meaningful, pro-growth tax reform become a reality. That’s why we are urging people across the country to call their member of Congress to pass reforms that will help create more jobs and raise wages here at home.”

Democrats hit congressional Republicans on health care on Facebook” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this week is launching Facebook ads against U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis, Vern Buchanan, Brian Mast, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo. As promised by Democrats during this year’s health care fights, the ads go after Republicans on their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The Facebook ads are targeting older adults with comments about the so-called “age tax” written into the House Republican’s health care bill, which would have allowed insurance agencies to charge higher premiums to older adults. The House passed House Resolution 1628 by a 217-213 vote, but the Senate killed it. The ad, citing the DCCC as the sponsor, declares in Facebook post text, “The Republicans’ health care bill would add an age tax to older Americans, allowing them to be charged five times more than younger people. And [name of the targeted Republican] supported it.” The ad includes a picture of an older woman in a hospital bed, being comforted by her husband, with meme text declaring “[name of targeted Republican] & Speaker Ryan: Hands off our health care.”

Buddy Dyer joining Anna Eskamani in HD 47 campaign event” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – … a move most likely to reveal Dyer’s endorsement, something that was not a certainty, even among Democrats. Dyer’s a Democrat, but he endorsed the Republican in last year’s HD 47 race, backing incumbent state Rep. Mike Miller over Democrat Beth Tuura, who, like Eskamani, was further toward the progressive wing of the party than Dyer. Miller beat Tuura 53-47 … but now is running for Congress, opening the seat that represents central Orange County, including downtown Orlando and Dyer’s neighborhood in the College Park community. Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan will join them, along with supporters and constituents.

Stockton Reeves talks HD 47, business, first responders, political transcendence” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – You’ve been a businessman through good times and bad times. How has this prepared you for service in the Florida Legislature? Reeves: Everyone thinks that when you own a business, life is easier when in fact it is more difficult. Being a business owner, no matter what the business or industry means you work longer hours, you face difficult decisions and every decision you make is critical. All this and more while managing for today and planning for tomorrow. One of the most important, if not the primary goal, of our legislators is to create and pass a budget. In Florida, we are constitutionally mandated to have a balanced budget. Orlando Rising: How do you view the district and how you compare with her in representing it? Reeves: I would list public safety is a primary concern. Ensuring that the men and women who serve in law enforcement, fire, fire rescue and emergency medical services have access to the very best in training whether that is in a classroom setting, in a vehicle or in tactical operations is a priority. There are many residents in this district who are concerned about their financial future. Taxes and fixed incomes are issues about which I hear. I firmly believe that we should keep as much of what we make as possible.

Michael Bileca endorses Vance Aloupis for HD 115 GOP primary” via Florida Politics – Incumbent Rep. Bileca cited Aloupis’ principled-conservative credentials and commitment to early childhood education initiatives as major factors informing his decision to support a candidate to succeed him in the Florida House. “His commitment to ensuring our children receive a world-class education that prepares them to be citizens of character and virtue and is a testament to his convictions and work ethic,” Bileca said in a statement. “Vance is a man of integrity who will represent District 115 in Tallahassee with distinction and serve as a tremendous asset to the Miami-Dade Delegation.” The endorsement adds to Aloupis’ growing momentum. With more than $150,000 cash on hand as of the last reporting deadline on July 31, Aloupis has more money in his campaign account than all his opponents combined. The primary is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018.

Trump link may have helped swing St. Pete race” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida – A virtual tie between St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Krisemanand challenger Rick Baker in a mayoral primary has left Florida Democrats giddy and Republicans groping for ways to rebrand their candidate. Baker, a Republican former mayor who remained wildly popular years after leaving office, led Kriseman in polls and fundraising throughout the campaign. But Kriseman wound up beating Baker by 69 votes … St. Petersburg is a swing area in which Democrat Hillary Clinton trounced Trump by a margin of 60 percent to 36 percent in November … Democratic and Republican political consultants maintained that what likely hurt Baker the most was the Kriseman team’s success in tying Baker to Trump. Strategists cautioned against overstating the broader significance of Kriseman’s comeback. Kriseman’s success could be a model for progressives and Democrats going into next year’s elections, Progress Florida Executive Director Mark Ferullo said. “It’s going to validate that strategy going into 2018, to make Trump an anvil to hang around the neck of our opponents,” Ferullo, whose organization endorsed Kriseman, said. But the recent controversy about Trump’s remarks in response to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia – and Baker’s refusal to say whether he had voted for Trump – almost definitely hurt the Republican candidate.

Darryl Paulson: Why I left the Republican Party” via Florida Politics – I not only considered myself a Republican, but I was also a conservative. I opposed the campaign of Donald Trump from the beginning. I believed he was neither a Republican nor a conservative. A look at his voter registration record shows he spent more time as a Democrat than a Republican. He was also registered as an independent and a member of the Reform Party. The last time he left the Republican Party, he called them “crazy right,” and he only rejoined the party about 18 months before seeking the Republican nomination. His actions as president have reaffirmed my view that he is unfit to be president … Trump frequently changes his positions or simply lies … The most damning statement about the Trump presidency comes from former Republican Senator John Danforth of Missouri … Trump “stands in opposition to the founding principles of our party — that of a United country.” The first resolution passed at the first Republican National Convention was that “the union of the states must and shall be preserved.” The motto of America is “E Pluribus Unum,” meaning “out of many, one.” Under Trump, we have way too much Pluribus, and not enough Unum. I will not rejoin the Republican Party until Donald Trump is no longer the leader of the party of Lincoln.


Bill Galvano files bill to permanently expand Bright Futures” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – … a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron. Galvano will push to expand scholarships for Bright Futures Academic Scholar awards as well as Medallion Scholar awards, which provide 100 percent and 75 percent toward college tuition. Receiving the top award for the scholarship requires students to have at least a 3.5 GPA as well as a score of 1290 on the SAT or a 29 on the ACT. At least 41,000 students qualified for the top scholarship tier this year. Galvano said the scholarship programs are important to Florida since they promote keeping students in college as well as on-time graduation.

No-bid contracts are a bad idea. Just ask the Florida Senate” via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times – The Florida Senate wanted to put its budget data online so the public could better understand how decisions get made. But except for that, everything about the state budget website is an example of what’s wrong with Tallahassee. It was rigged for insiders to get the job from the start. There was no bid process. And it never worked. Now, The Associated Press’s Gary Fineout is reporting that Florida taxpayers will have to shell out more money for a website that never launched. According to Fineout, the state is setting aside another $200,000 to fight a claim by the vendor, Spider Data Services, to get a final payment of $500,000 that it asked for initially back in 2013. That’s on top of the $5 million the state has already spent.

Happening today – State Sen. Debbie Mayfield will speak at a South Beach Property Owners meeting, 6 p.m. at St. Edward’s Auditorium, 1895 St. Edward’s Dr. In Vero Beach.

David Santiago, Rene Plasencia, Bob Cortes headed for Puerto Rico for talks” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The trio of Central Florida Republicans all have Puerto Rico heritage and represent districts with large populations of Puerto Rican migrants. Cortes is from Altamonte Springs; Plasencia, Orlando; and Santiago, Deltona. They plan to visit the commonwealth’s Capitol in San Juan to meet with Puerto Rico House Speaker Carlos Méndez Núñez, the chief of staff to the Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and the island government’s executive director of ports. Later they plan to meet with Ponce Mayor Maria Melendez and the executive director of the Puerto de las Americas in Ponce. Cortes said the trip is intended as a continuation of talks begun earlier this year with the hope of developing stronger joint economic opportunities in both Puerto Rico and Florida. He also said the trio are paying their own way, so that no tax dollars are involved.


Off: Sean White is no longer listed as a legislative analyst in the Senate Majority Office.

On: Angela Herndon became administrative support for the House Government Accountability Committee and its subcommittees (Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs; Natural Resources & Public Lands; Oversight, Transparency & Administration; and Transportation & Infrastructure).

On: Amaura Canty became administrative support for the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee and Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee.

On: Tracy Sumner became policy chief for the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

On: Jessica Krause joined the House Health & Human Services Committee as administrative support.

On and off: David Marin is replacing Allesandro D’Amico as legislative assistant for Miami-Dade Republican Sen. Rene Garcia.

On and off: Leisa Wiseman is replacing Mark Hodgest as district secretary for Tallahassee Democratic Rep. Loranne Ausley.

On: YuVonda Steward is the new legislative assistant for Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Kimberly Daniels.

On: Maddie Dawson is the new district secretary for Naples Republican Rep. Byron Donalds.

On: Lynne Holicky is replacing Jana Lambert as district secretary for Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jay Fant.

On: Pam Nickell is the new district secretary for Venice Republican Rep. Julio Gonzalez.

On and off: Jenny Bonostro replaced Venusmia Lovely as district secretary for Miami Democratic Rep. Roy Hardemon.

Off: Coleton Reece is no longer district secretary for Clearwater Republican Rep. Chris Latvala.

On: Doniel Wolfe is new district secretary for Destin Republican Rep. Mel Ponder.

Off: Amber Smith is no longer legislative assistant and Robyn Bryan is no longer district secretary for Plant City Republican Rep. Dan Raulerson.

On and off: Anna Stearns moved from district secretary to legislative assistant for Palm Harbor Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls, replacing Omar Raschid.


Rick Scott, VISIT FLORIDA CEO rally tourism professionals at Hollywood conference” via Arlene Satchell of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – Hundreds of hospitality representatives convened for the 50th Florida Governor’s Conference on Tourism at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, for pep talks from Gov. Scott and the head of VISIT FLORIDA,, and to discuss new tactics for wooing more visitors … shoring up the future of tourism — Florida’s biggest industry — is critical to its economic success. Last year, Florida welcomed a record 112.8 million tourists. For 2017, the goal is reach 120 million visitors. In a rousing address, Ken Lawson, CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation, thanked the governor and conference participants for their role in the state’s tourism success. “Visit Florida is unequivocally committed to helping you succeed,” Lawson said. “We want to make sure the right visitors come, they stay long, they spend a lot.”

Rick Scott says he’s open to changing housing authority oversight” via Wayne Washington of the Palm Beach PostScott indicated he is open to augmenting the oversight of the troubled Palm Beach County Housing Authority, Commissioner Mack Bernard said after meeting with the governor … In July, housing authority board members fired the agency’s chief executive, Van Johnson, accusing him of mismanaging its finances … documents indicate Johnson hired his niece as a consultant and did not tell board members of his relationship to her for four years. In announcing Johnson’s termination, board members noted that, under Johnson, the authority had agreed to pay nearly $1 million in administrative and consulting fees while struggling to meet payroll. The governor appoints housing authority board members, leaving Palm Beach County with little oversight of the agency despite its name. Bernard wants to change that, calling on state lawmakers to pass legislation expanding the housing authority board by two members who would be appointed by the County Commission.

Ticketed: Another Florida Highway Patrol official resigns” via The Associated Press – The second-highest ranking official in the Florida Highway Patrol is resigning amid an ongoing review into whether troopers were being ordered to meet traffic ticket quotas. Lt. Col. Michael Thomas resigned after it was discovered he sent an email in late May that encouraged troopers to write two tickets an hour. Thomas had been with the Florida Highway Patrol for 30 years. In his resignation letter, Thomas said the email was a “grave error” and could have been interpreted as an order to supervisors. Top state officials have insisted that ticket quotas are not allowed.

Judge rejects ‘stand your ground’ claim in death of USF football player” via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times – Chief Judge Ronald Ficarrotta, who denied Randolph Graham’s request for immunity from prosecution under Florida’s “stand your ground” law. Graham, 25, who is accused of second-degree murder in the death of Elkino Watson, a former University of South Florida football player, will now head to trial. Under “stand your ground,” an individual has no duty to retreat and may use deadly force if he or she is in fear of death or great bodily harm while facing a violent confrontation. Before, it was up to the defense in these cases to prove that immunity applied. But the recent change in the law shifted the burden to the state to prove that it does not. His case was among the first in Hillsborough County to proceed with a “stand your ground” defense since state lawmakers changed the law in June. After two days of testimony in Graham’s case, Ficarrotta ruled that the state had met its burden.

What Richard Corcoran is reading – “Orange mayor seeks more transparency for Visit Orlando” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel – Five days after state Speaker Richard Corcoranvowed a crackdown on Visit Orlando and other tourism agencies, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs is calling for the group to disclose details of major sponsorship agreements when its contract with the county is renewed in 2018. In addition, Jacobs wants the U.S. Tennis Association’s controversial multiyear deal with Visit Orlando to be released, saying she will ask the USTA to waive the confidentiality agreement that Visit Orlando says prevents it from making it public. Corcoran warned he will demand the same transparency the state has mandated for its own tourism agency, VISIT FLORIDA, from all local tourism boards. Visit Orlando, a public-private agency that received about $51 million in county hotel taxes last year to promote tourism, was one of 12 local agencies to sever ties with Visit Florida once the new state rules were in place, including requirements to post all contracts online.

St. Petersburg proposal would require solar panels on new homes and major roof repairs” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – As the place that has long billed itself as “the Sunshine City,” St. Petersburg hopes to boost the number of solar-powered homes as part of a broader commitment made last year to convert the city to renewable energy sources, said Sharon Wright, the city’s sustainability coordinator. Not everyone is eager to make solar power mandatory. Council Chair Darden Ricesaid she’s leaning toward voluntary measures, such as creating incentives, to promote solar. “If we rush into a mandatory requirement, I don’t want us to suffer a backlash that undoes all the things we’ve already achieved,” said Rice, a former Sierra Club activist who co-founded the Pinellas Living Green Expo. “What we have to do is slow it down a little bit.” If passed, the ordinance would make St. Petersburg only the second Florida city to mandate solar for new homes, according to the Florida Solar Energy Center at the University of Central Florida.


“China wants ‘information dominance’ through ‘political warfare’ ” via Florida Politics – China wants “information dominance” and is willing to engage in “political warfare” to get it, an expert said Wednesday at a Tallahassee town hall on the communist country’s theft of intellectual property, or IP. The hour-and-a-half event on the Florida State University campus was billed as a Congressional “field hearing” by Republican Congressmen Matt Gaetz and Neal Dunn, both of whom represent Florida Panhandle districts … Dean Cheng, Senior Research Fellow for Asian Studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation, told an audience of about 50 that China seeks “comprehensive national power,” and stealing IP is one means to get it. “One Chinese observation is: ‘Before the soldiers march and the bugles sound, information warfare is already underway,’ ” he said.

Ted Deutch town hall – U.S. Rep. Deutch holds a town-hall meeting in Palm Beach County beginning 10:30 a.m. at the Mae Volen Center, 1515 West Palmetto Park Road in Boca Raton.

Brian Ballard’s Washington firm lands another big lobbying contract” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – … picking up Halkbank, a Turkish state-owned bank. Ballard Partners already represents the government of Turkey, which is paying the firm $1.5 million this year, the same as the one-year Halkbank contract inked this week. Both are overseen by former Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler, who joined the firm as it expanded to Washington this year, Ballard capitalizing on a tight relationship with Trump. Already Ballard Partners has taken in more than $3.5 million in income from its Washington operation, with major clients being ($140,000); American Road & Transport Builders Association ($200,000); Reynolds American ($220,000) Geo Group ($250,000); and U.S. Sugar ($300,000), according to records.


“Personnel note: Steven Cernak elected chair of Florida Ports Council” via Florida Politics – Port Everglades Chief Executive/Port Director Cernak was elected chairman of the ports council this week, replacing Port Tampa Bay Director Paul Anderson. PortMiami Port Director and CEO Juan Kuryla was elected vice chairman and Port of Palm Beach Executive Director Manuel Almira was elected secretary/treasurer. All positions serve one-year terms. Cernak’s “extensive experience at numerous ports around the nation is a great asset to capitalize on the strengths of Florida’s diverse seaport system,” said Florida Ports Council President and CEO Doug Wheeler in a press release. “We look forward to working with Steven and port partners to continue to move Florida forward as a key player in the global marketplace.”

“Personnel note: Tim Knowles stepping down from FL Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs” via Florida PoliticsKnowles, a founding member of the Florida Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, is stepping down from the board of directors after two decades of service. The Alliance is a leading statewide group to help secure state funding for clubs working to create positive experiences for Florida children. Knowles is a 65-year-old Bradenton native and principal at the Porges, Hamlin, Knowles & Hawk law firm. He graduated from the Webb Institute of Naval Architecture in 1975, earning a law degree from Stetson University in 1982.

Spotted in the New York Times: Brian Ballard in a Nicholas Confessore story on the new “rules of influence” in Donald Trump‘s administration, in which Ballard is described as having “a ruddy Florida tan that marked him as new in town.”

Appointed – Dr. Danita Heagy (reappointed) and Dr. Mindy Weingarten to the Florida Board of Chiropractic Medicine.

— ALOE —

Email I didn’t open: “Game of Thrones; castle prices tumble during the long winter” via Brandon Kazimer of Jill Schmidt PR.

Duke Energy strikes deal to lower customer bills, boost solar” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times – Under a proposed settlement filed with regulators, Duke’s 1.8 million customers will not have to pay off the remaining $150 million for the Levy County nuclear project. That could trim $2.50 off the average monthly bill. But there will be no reimbursement for the roughly $800 million that ratepayers have already paid toward the project that was abandoned four years ago — before it even got off the ground. Harry Sideris, president of Duke Energy Florida, defended the already-paid 800 million as previously justified expenses and dismissed concern of the $150 million, which will be on Duke’s books as a write-off shouldered by the public company’s shareholders. “We feel like the cost of Levy being written off is a small price to pay for moving forward,” Sideris said.

Florida consumer sentiment down slightly in August” via Florida Politics – Consumer sentiment among Floridians dropped 1.2 points in August to 96.5. Among the five components that make up the index, one increased and four decreased. Respondents’ overall views of their personal financial situation now compared with a year ago ticked down one-tenth of a point, from 88.2 to 88.1; however, there was a split by gender, with the reading rising 4.8 points for men but dropping 4.7 points for women. Opinions about whether now is a good time to buy a big-ticket household item such as an appliance dropped one-tenth of a point, from 102.8 to 102.7. “In the last two months, July and August, Floridians’ perceptions of present economic conditions shifted slightly downward; nonetheless, they remained 2.6 points higher than the average over the last 12 months,” said Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

ESPN football analyst walks away, disturbed by brain trauma on field” via John Branch of The New York Times – If Ed Cunningham had not already seen enough, he would be back in a broadcast booth … serving as the color analyst for another top college football game televised on ABC or ESPN. It is the work he has done each fall for nearly 20 years. But Cunningham, 48, resigned from one of the top jobs in sports broadcasting because of his growing discomfort with the damage being inflicted on the players he was watching each week. The hits kept coming, right in front of him, until Cunningham said he could not, in good conscience, continue his supporting role in football’s multibillion-dollar apparatus. “I take full ownership of my alignment with the sport,” he said. “I can just no longer be in that cheerleader’s spot” … “In its current state, there are some real dangers: broken limbs, wear and tear,” Cunningham said. “But the real crux of this is that I just don’t think the game is safe for the brain. To me, it’s unacceptable.”

Happy birthday to Joe Henderson, Ashley Green, Gene McGee, and Dr. Ed Moore.

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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