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Sunburn for April 21: David Jolly has a big announcement; Connie Brown’s big decision; Pam Bondi’s big sigh of relief

in Peter/Top Headlines by

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

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

IS DAVID JOLLY STILL THE FRONTRUNNER IN THE GOP PRIMARY FOR FLORIDA’S U.S. SENATE SEAT?

FloridaPolitics.com yesterday released the results of a poll of a possible GOP primary in the race for Florida’s 4th Congressional District. The most significant finding of the poll may be that former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford is the early frontrunner to succeed Ander Crenshaw.

But that is not the poll’s most interesting data point. That would be what Republicans in northeast Florida think of the 5 candidates running to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis leads the field with 32%. That’s a no-brainer. The First Coast is DeSantis’ backyard.

In second place, surprisingly, is Manatee homebuilder Carlos Beruff with nine percent support. Beruff is well ahead of U.S. Rep. David Jolly (5 percent), who is regarded (and describes himself) as the frontrunner in the race.

There’s no reason why Beruff should be ahead of Jolly or Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera except for one factor: He has spent roughly $1.5 million of his own money on television ads by the middle of next week, reports Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Why shouldn’t we assume that what is happening in CD 4 isn’t happening in other congressional districts throughout the state where Beruff is on the air?

Why shouldn’t we assume that if Beruff spends another $1.5 million, he won’t be closer to DeSantis in the polls?

Why shouldn’t we assume that if and when (more when than if) Wilcox starts spending from his personal fortune (estimated to be north of $50 million) that he, too, won’t ladder up the polls?

The reality is the race for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate is shifting — and probably shifting under the feet of Jolly, who is so confident of his lead in the polls that he agreed to unilaterally debate Democrat Alan Grayson. (Someone please tell me what the upside of Jolly debating Grayson is? When you stand next to clown, people think you work at the circus.)

One top GOP consultant working in this race predicts that by the end of May, the narrative will have shifted away from Jolly leading to DeSantis in front, Beruff on his heels, and Wilcox as the outsider looking to make a move.

This is probably why talk of Jolly dropping out of the Senate race and returning to running for his congressional seat is bubbling up. This is probably why talk of CLC dropping out of the Senate race and running for Mayor of Miami is bubbling up. As capable as both of these men are, their paths to victory appear narrow.

This is especially true for Jolly, whose disdain for fundraising has left him without the passing game needed to catch up if he does, in fact, fall behind. Jolly also does things like push Scientology-backed legislation to study the relationship between psychiatric drugs and veteran suicide (my goodness, how many mailers written by CLC super PACer Rick Wilson will rely on that story?)

Jolly appears allergic to traditional forms of complaining, but it’s hard to blame him for this reaction. He won his congressional seat in a hotly-contested election that had him at 2 percent in the polls at the start of the race.

In other words, Jolly’s found himself in deeper holes than the one he may find himself in soon. It remains to be seen whether he can dig himself out once again?

TWEET, TWEET: @DavidJollyFL: Big announcement coming tomorrow

U.S. SENATE TRACKERBeruff will be in Lakeland and Sarasota; Jolly will be in North Palm Harbor; Lopez-Cantera will be in Punta Gorda; Wilcox will be in Plant City.

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GWEN GRAHAM WON’T RUN FOR RE-ELECTION via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Graham says she’s “seriously considering” a bid for governor in 2018 and won’t run for re-election this year now that her district has been drastically changed.

CORRINE BROWN WILL RUN FOR RE-ELECTION IN NEWLY REDRAWN FIFTH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union – Brown’s announcement signals the longtime congresswoman is doubling down on Jacksonville — there was speculation she might instead run in a district based in Orlando — and that she has hopes her political future will endure despite her connection to a federal investigation of an organization accused of posing as a charity. “Although I still maintain that the new congressional districts will be severely disadvantageous to minorities throughout the state of Florida, I intend to declare my candidacy for the newly drawn Congressional District Five of Florida,” she said in a statement … Her commitment to run for the seat adds some clarity to the race, in which she’ll face at least one well-known challenger: Former state Sen. Al Lawson of Tallahassee.

TWEET, TWEET: @GrayRohrer: In other words, Rep. Brown will run for Congress in a district she doesn’t think should exist.

IN CD 13, POLL SHOWS ERIC LYNN CLOSING THE GAP ON CHARLIE CRIST via Florida Politics – Crist leads Lynn 70 percent to 18 percent, according to a St. Pete Polls survey … a clear uptick for Lynn from two previous polls, which showed Crist leading Lynn by 63 and 60 points, respectively. In just nine months, Lynn has gained 11 points on Crist, putting Lynn on pace to catch the former-Republican-turned-Democrat by July 2019. Lynn has a bright upside with 54 percent of CD 13 Democrats not knowing enough about him to form an opinion of him. Despite never run for office before, Lynn has a favorable/unfavorable rating of 25/22 (that’s right – with all of Crist’s supposed baggage, Lynn’s unfavorable rating is six points higher than Crist’s.) CD 13 voters were asked who they supported in the race for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat. Patrick Murphy leads Alan Grayson 27 to 21 percent. Most CD 13 Democrats are either unsure or prefer someone else. Hillary Clinton is the preferred presidential nominee of 70 percent of CD 13 voters.

MORGAN & MORGAN AGAIN BANKROLLING CRIST via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – “Charlie is a member of our firm and he is deeply loved and admired. I think it is just a reflection of what all the lawyers think of him as a person and friend,” said John Morgan, leader of the firm where Crist works more as a rainmaker than a practicing lawyer. Morgan supported Crist’s unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2014, but said in an email that the extent of his involvement in Crist’s congressional campaign was sending an email on Crist’s behalf to members of the firm. “Only thing I am bankrolling is (medical marijuana) and my children’s inheritance. (:” He also explained why his sons have been appearing in Morgan & Morgan’s TV commercials much more frequently than he has: “I am passing the torch. Old fat and gray doesn’t sell as well as young and handsome.”

— “Escambia Sheriff David Morgan endorses Mike Hill in SD 1 race” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics

SAVE THE DATE: State Rep. Darryl Rouson will be holding a kickoff fundraiser Monday, April 25, for his Senate District 19 campaign beginning 7:30 p.m. at the home of Bob Devon Jones and Jim Howell, 1627 Beach Dr. SE. in St. Petersburg. RSVP and more information at 727-459-4562 or VoteRouson@gmail.com.

JAYER WILLIAMSON TO RUN FOR HOUSE DISTRICT 3 IN 2016 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Williamson, a Santa Rosa County commissioner, announced on Facebook that he plans to run in 2016. Williamson had previously expected to run for the seat in 2018. Williamson said Rep. Jeff Miller’s decision to retire from Congress “created a domino effect in Northwest Florida.” That domino effect, Williamson said, prompted him to transfer his 2018 campaign to this year. “Our support has been tremendous for 2018 and with your help we have already raised over $55,000 that can be transferred to my 2016 campaign account,” said Williamson on his Facebook page. “But now, more than ever, I need your help.”

DEMOCRAT JENNIFER WEBB TO CHALLENGE KATHLEEN PETERS IN HD 69 via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Webb, Director of Community Partnerships at USF’s Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships and a resident of Gulfport, has announced her candidacy for State House District 69, currently occupied by Republican Peters. “I feel privileged to live in this incredible community and proud of the values and vision we have for moving all of our neighborhoods forward,” Webb said in a statement issued Wednesday, “but our values and vision locally are not in-line with legislation coming out of Tallahassee. They spend their time with well-connected insiders up there, but fail to show up for our public schools, our families and our communities back here.” Webb says her work at USF includes building projects to reduce violence and increase employment, eliminate hunger, bring justice to victims of crime and abuse of power, permanently house homeless families, and support high quality public schools.

***Space is filling up quickly to hear Cindy Mann, one of the nation’s foremost authorities on health care policy and reform who will share her insights and predictions on the future health care landscape, at the FAIF 2016 Florida Health Care Affordability Summit to be held April 25-27, 2016, at the Orlando World Center Marriott.  Register today: HealthCareFlorida.com***

RICK SCOTT: BASEBALL HAS BEEN VERY, VERY GOOD… TO FLORIDA via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – Average per-game attendance this spring hit 7,096 fans — the first time crowds for a game topped the 7,000-level in more than a century of Florida Grapefruit League baseball. “Spring Training and Major League Baseball are a major attraction for families and visitors, and have an incredible economic impact on the local communities that host these 15 Florida Grapefruit League teams,” Scott said. “Last year we welcomed 105 million visitors to our state, and we will keep working to support the tourism industry so we can reach another record year in Florida.” Among the teams showing an increase: The St. Louis Cardinals, playing at Jupiter’s Roger Dean Stadium. The Cards had a 6.4 percent average per game attendance increase this spring.

SCOTT BOUND FOR CALIFORNIA — AND ANOTHER TRADE MISSION via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – Scott is going out west — again — for a business-recruiting trip to California … plans to lead the Enterprise Florida trade mission next month that is timed so he can attend the Milken Institute’s Global Conference. Scott said he plans to sell Florida as a place for “job creators to succeed.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a ceremonial bill signing at 9 a.m. at the FDLE Tampa Bay Regional Operations Center, 4211 North Lois Avenue in Tampa. He’s ceremonially sign a bill that reduces the turnaround time for processing and testing rape kits.

AMID DEADLOCK, INSURANCE CHIEF KEVIN MCCARTY DELAYS DEPARTURE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – McCarty … will delay his departure until 45 days after his successor is appointed. McCarty hand-delivered a letter to Scott and to all three Cabinet members expressing his willingness “to honor my commitment to facilitate a smooth transition as the 2016 hurricane season approaches.” Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater are deadlocked over a choice for McCarty’s successor, and no official has proposed an alternative candidate for the critically important post of regulating the insurance industry. McCarty’s letter surfaced within hours of statements by Atwater that he would be “uncomfortable” if the search for McCarty’s successor leaves the Office of Insurance Regulation without strong leadership during a hurricane season.

JEFF ATWATER ‘UNCOMFORTABLE’ WITH PROLONGED SEARCH FOR INSURANCE CHIEF via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Atwater said that the “big decision” of hiring a new state insurance commissioner warrants a thorough evaluation of all applicants for the job, but he voiced concern if the annual hurricane season begins June 1 and the job is not filled. “I would feel uncomfortable with a prolonged process that I did not think was going to have us someone there either on a permanent basis or that was skilled and is there today that would help us through hurricane season,” Atwater said … he would not find it “alarming” if no decision is reached at next week’s Cabinet meeting.

CHIP MERLIN CALLS KEVIN MCCARTY’S DEPARTURE DELAY A ‘MASSIVE BLESSING’ via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – McCarty “staying on until a replacement is named is a massive blessing,” said Merlin of the Merlin Law Group in Tampa … Merlin has built a business out of suing insurance companies that “deny, delay or underpay property insurance claims,” his website says. “We should try to keep him as a public servant for as long as possible; he has served the public well,” Merlin said in an email. “Hopefully, we can say the same after the next insurance commissioner retires.” Scott and the Cabinet “should remember that our insurance commissioner is supposed to put people first, making sure insurance companies are fit and able to pay claims without delay, and keep the playing field level for good insurance companies,” he added.

PAM BONDI’S SILENCE AMIND QUESTIONS ABOUT LOBBYING, THE GIFT BAN, AND FREE TRIPS via Gary Fineout for his blog, The Fine Print – Right before she was elected to a second term into office, a series of stories by the New York Times detailed the practice of law firms who were skilled at developing contacts and relationships with the top lawyers of various states – including Attorney General Pam Bondi. These firms helped out corporate clients whose businesses had been targeted by some states, but not others. … The Florida Commission on Ethics voted last week there was no probable cause to conclude that the now-defunct law firm Dickstein Shapiro – or one the lawyers who used to work at the firm, Bernard Nash – had broken the state’s ethics laws. The finding was made public Wednesday.

Yet a deeper look into the information does comes up with several interesting highlights … Bondi herself was never questioned directly by investigators … During an hour-long recorded interview with Nash, he tells the commission investigator about how his firm would set up dinners and receptions where they would invite all attorney generals across the state to join them … Nash downplayed a Bondi fundraiser that Dickstein Shapiro hosted at Mar-A-Lago, the club owned by Trump.

RAY RODRIGUES HASN’T DECIDED WHETHER HE’LL BRING BACK FRACKING LEGISLATION IN 2017 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Rodrigues said he wasn’t sure he will sponsor legislation during the 2017 legislative session to regulate fracking. If he decides against filing a bill next year, it will mark the first time since 2013 the Estero Republican has not carried the fracking issue forward. “I have not looked at what bills to carry. I am still wrapping up this session,” he said recently. “When it comes time, one of the things I’ll look at is what will be the likelihood of success.” In January, the Florida House passed a bill to regulate hydraulic fracturing. Several weeks later, the bill died in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

NEW LAW CRACKS OPEN FLORIDA SELF DRIVING CAR RESEARCH via Jason Ruiter of the Orlando Sentinel – A new Florida law puts the state at the helm of researching what may be transportation’s most futuristic technology: self-driving cars. The transportation bill signed by Scott … explicitly allows riderless cars to hit public roads for research. The bill brings the idea of autonomous cars, still under a controlled setting, closer to reality in the state, if not the country. “Florida was the second state to look at this and by far has taken a leadership role among the states,” said Jeff Brandes, a sponsor of the bill. Although the legislation could bring in business, a central pillar of Scott’s term, Brandes said self-driving cars could ultimately be the best option for road safety. Google’s self-driving car had its first at-fault accident – a fender-bender with a bus … “We’ve been able to get the legislators comfortable with this technology,” Brandes said. “Many of them have experienced it personally.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Senate President Designate Joe Negron will wrap up his listening tour of the state universities with a 9 a.m. at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. He’ll then head to Florida International University in Miami at 1 p.m., before ending the day at 4 p.m. at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

MASSIVE NUCLEAR PLANT PLAN NEAR EVERGLADES DELAYED BY COURT via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press – The 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami reversed a 2014 decision by Scott and the Cabinet to approve construction of two nuclear reactors by Florida Power & Light at its Turkey Point plant near Homestead. The project, costing up to $18 billion, would add about 2,200 megawatts of electric power or enough to supply 750,000 homes. A three-judge panel ruled the governor and Cabinet failed to account for environmental regulations meant to protect the Everglades and endangered birds that make their home in the wetlands. Part of the plan includes erecting about 90 miles of transmission lines that would skirt the eastern edge of Everglades National Park and slice through several cities. The court found that Florida Power & Light should be required to bury the power lines at the utility’s expense; that a proposal to fill in about 137 acres of right of way would affect critical water flow; and that proposed access roads would have to be elevated at some points.

STUDY: LOCAL FLORIDA PENSION FUNDS STILL IN TROUBLE via Florida Politics – The LeRoy Collins Institute report, called “The Financial Challenges of Retiree Healthcare Subsidies in Florida Cities and Counties,” showed that out of more than 150 of the largest local governmental pension programs, 8 percent of all pensions studied showed large enough unfunded retiree health care liabilities to create “substantive challenges for those local governments’ long-term financial conditions and short-term budgeting decisions.” The report assigned A-F grades to 167 local pension programs in Florida. Of those five got an “F,” meaning they have greater than 200 percent unfunded pension liability compared to their general budget. Those are the cities of Cape Coral, Hialeah, Hollywood and Lakeland, plus Monroe County. Several other major municipalities — including Sarasota, Venice, and the Pinellas County Police Plan — ranked nearly a bad, earning a “D.” Pensions in that group had unfunded liabilities between 100 and 200 percent of their total budgets, putting them significantly under water. Overall, the study found that total unfunded retiree health care liabilities in the state amount to more than $7.5 billion, as of the 2014 fiscal year.

ANTI-RAIL GROUP RESPONDS TO LETTER FROM FEDERAL TRANSIT AGENCY via Florida Politics – The group, Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida, said they worked with U.S. Rep. Bill Posey to get a copy of the communiqué after hearing the Federal Railroad Administration’s Safety Office had written All Aboard Florida — the rail proposal in question — about issues related to the group’s concerns. Initially, Martin County, where the proposed tracks will lie, reached out to AAF about safety and financial concerns they raised which align with CARE FL’s concerns — namely, that the AAF rail expansion could threaten pedestrian safety, local budgets and maritime commerce. AAF didn’t get back to Martin authorities, with whom CARE FL is aligned on the matter, on their November 2015 inquiry, but activists with the group later learned AAF received a letter from the federal rail administration on similar issues. In that letter, according to CARE FL, federal officials echoed concerns the group raised about railroad crossings, which they insist must be improved and maintained at no cost to local governments, a major sticking point in the row over expansion.

INDUSTRY SCRAMBLES AS COURT TOSSES WORKERS’ COMP ATTORNEYS’ FEE CAPS via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – Business groups are sounding the alarm and plaintiffs’ lawyers are celebrating an appeals court decision declaring unconstitutional Florida’s sweeping restrictions on injured workers’ rights to sign contracts with workers’ compensation lawyers. Plaintiffs’ attorneys can’t be criminally prosecuted for entering into contracts with injured workers outside the workers’ compensation system, a three-member panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal unanimously ruled. The ruling … comes as business and insurance groups await a Florida Supreme Court ruling on the caps in a separate case. The caps — part of broader 2003 legislation that also made changes to the benefits injured workers are entitled to — restricted attorneys’ fees to 20 percent of the first $5,000 in benefits secured, 15 percent of the next $5,000, 10 percent of the remainder to be provided during the first decade and 5 percent of the benefits secured after those first 10 years.

APPOINTEDShane Abbott to Northwest Florida State College District Board of Trustees.

APPOINTEDLisa Lewis as the Supervisor of Elections for Volusia County.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Natalie KatoLori KillingerMartin Lyon, Lewis Longman & Walker: Atlantic Civil

Celeste Philip: Department of Health

Aimee Diaz Lyon, Metz Husband & Daughton P: Information Systems of Florida

Bob Martinez, Holland & Knight: C36, LLC

Lisa Miller, Lisa Miller and Associates: Huckleberry Notary Bonding

***Escape the office this week and enjoy lunch at The Edison! City and state workers receive 15% off lunch on Mondays, and 10% off lunch Tuesday-Friday before 12:30 p.m. Take the lunch break you deserve and make your reservation today.***

EDITORIAL WRITER AT CHARLOTTE SUN ADDED TO PULITZER WIN LIST, BUT NOW WORKS FOR CHARLOTTE COUNTY via The Associated Press – John Hackworth, editor of Sun Newspapers in Charlotte Harbor was initially named the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. On Wednesday, the Pulitzer office in New York said Brian Gleason wrote three of the eight editorials and had also won the prize. The newspaper’s executive editor, Chris Porter, submitted the original entry letter citing only Hackworth. He said it was an honest mistake. Gleason was with the Sun for 26 years and left the newspaper in August. He now works as the communications manager for Charlotte County government. He contacted the newspaper after the awards were announced and said he had written some of the pieces, which were about a deadly assault of an inmate by guards and did not run with a byline.

LONGTIME ORLANDO SENTINEL SPORTS COLUMNIST JERRY GREENE PASSES via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – Greene called his sports column in the Orlando Sentinel “From the Cheap Seats,” and that’s what he provided readers for decades: the fans-eye-view of the action, on and off the field. Greene, 74, an Orlando Sentinel sports reporter and columnist for most of the past 40 years, died Wednesday morning after an extended illness … Greene’s knowledge of sports from the NFL to Central Florida high schools came from his decades of professional reporting. But his humorous, every-man perspective came from his friendly, boisterous, larger-than-life, self-effacing personality. He was the guy in the chicken suit or some other goofy costume in a newsroom full of button-down journalists. He was the guy writing like the fan on the next bar stool while everyone else was pursuing million-dollar athletes and coaches. But he also was a journalist who could work a deep and broad network of sources, get the facts, and make his points with inarguable precision.

AMERICANS WOULD RATHER HAVE TYRION LANNISTER AS PRES. OVER HILLARY CLINTON, DONALD TRUMP via Will Robinson of Entertainment Weekly – Among candidates based in bona fide Western Civilization and Westeros alike, Tyrion Lannister raked in 24 percent of the vote from the 2,045 respondents, tied with Democratic candidate Bernie SandersClinton sits at 20 percent, while the Queen of the Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen, won 14 percent of voters over. Trump rounded out the top five at 7 percent. Tyrion’s support is truly bipartisan. While Sanders’ and Trump’s respective bases primarily lie with their party, liberals and conservatives make up an almost equal amount of the former Hand of the King’s constituents. Just because Tyrion and Dany garnered so much support doesn’t mean Americans pine for the good ol’ days of feudalism: 75 percent of 396 respondents think the U.S. does government better than the Seven Kingdoms. So not everything is terrible.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of our favorite people, Rachel Perrin Rogers, she of the generous spirit. Also celebrating today is Nick Corvino, AT&T’s Andrew Hall (we miss you), and Lloyd Dunkelberger.

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.

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