Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for March 29 – A shark frenzy; Rick Scott admin tumult; Alaska hearts Marco Rubio

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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, Ryan Ray, and Jim Rosica.


Broward County Sheriffs arrested a prominent Florida political blogger on a charge of attempted murder.

Javier Manjarres, known in political circles as the publisher of The Shark Tank blog, was detained by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday. According to an arrest form provided to by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, the 43-year-old was charged with one count of attempted murder and two counts of burglary conveyance with battery.

According to police, Manjarres was arrested for leaving his sister’s boyfriend, Jason Holowinski, with a broken nose and bullet holes in his pickup truck.

As noted in the police report the incident began when Manjarres’ sister and Holowinski, had an argument earlier in the evening. Holowinski went to pick up Manjarres’ sister at a Boca Raton shopping plaza, opening the passenger door for her.

Manjarres then appeared, stepping into Holowinski’s truck and reportedly hit him in the face with his fist “four to five times.” Holowinski told police he saw Manjarres reach for something in his waistband, so he put his truck in reverse to get away.

While backing up, he struck Manjarres’ car.

As he was trying to accelerate, Holowinski reported to police hearing three gunshots. Holowinski then drove to his brother’s house in North Lauderdale. He went to University Hospital in Tamarac by ambulance.

Police arrested Manjarres after going to his Pompano Beach home and discovering the damaged car.

This is not his first run-in with the law. According to a Jan. 19, 2012 report in the Miami New Times, Manjarres was arrested in June 1995 for burglary with assault. Manjarres allegedly drove to the home of a man who was at the time dating Manjarres ex-girlfriend.

The Miami New Times reported that, according to a Palm Beach County police report, Manjarres broke down the man’s front door and punched him. The man suffered bruises and a busted lip. The newspaper reported Manjarres pleaded guilty and served two years of probation.

Manjarres’ earned a notorious reputation in conservative circles for launching relentless attacks on candidates who failed to toe the Tea Party line, earning him the Conservative Political Action Conference 2011 blogger of the year award. Manjarres was also well-known throughout the industry for insistence on pay-for-play advertising in exchange for favorable coverage.

Manjarres is listed as one of Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith’s “political insiders” and he is cited regularly by POLITICO Florida.

BACKGROUND — “Javier Manjarres: This shark eats politicians” via Francisco Alvarado of the Miami New Times

SHARK DEFENSE: @MarcACaputo: We don’t know the facts. But if a person tries to hit another w/a car, the pedestrian might be justified in shooting

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ENTERPRISE FLORIDA CHIEF RESIGNS … SCOTT ORDERS $6 MILLION DOWNSIZING via Steve Bousquet and Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Bill Johnson … Scott‘s top jobs recruiter, abruptly resigned as president and CEO of Enterprise Florida, which faces a dramatic downsizing after the Legislature rejected its bid for $250 million to attract companies to Florida. Scott directly blamed the Legislature for Enterprise Florida’s demise and told its board of directors to make $6 million in cuts to its staff and office space. The agency has 90 employees and a payroll of $9 million. “The Florida Legislature sent a clear signal this year that they do not want to fund competitive economic development incentive programs,” Scott wrote. “Clearly, we have no choice but to refocus the efforts and mission of Enterprise Florida. … The agency will be forced to become smaller and more streamlined.” Scott said he has asked David Wilkins, who ran the state’s Department of Children & Families in his first term, to manage a restructuring of Enterprise Florida, including converting it to a private entity, with no public money. Most of Enterprise Florida’s operating budget is paid by taxpayers.

TWEET, TWEET: @FasanoMike: A 35 year bureaucrat didn’t get the 250 million in corporate welfare he wanted is now stepping down

FIRST IN SUNBURN — FORMER SCOTT CHIEF OF STAFF STEPPING DOWN TO RUN FOR CITRUS CO. SHERIFF – Mike PrendergastScott’s CoS who moved on to become head of the state’s Department of Veteran Affairs, is stepping down to run for Citrus County Sheriff. He will formally announce his campaign at the Florida Cabinet meeting set for 9 a.m. in Tallahassee. “My life has been dedicated to service at many levels, including to our state and country. I believe the best way I can continue to serve is by seeking the position of Sheriff of Citrus County,” said Prendergast, a Tampa native and retired Army colonel. “I began my military career as a Military Policeman, and it would be an honor to bring my extensive law enforcement background to a county that is home to so many brave military veterans and other outstanding citizens” … “Mike Prendergast is a real-deal American hero, and the kind of man who is dedicated to service on behalf of us all,” said Ron Sachs who is working on Prendergast’s campaign effort.

FORMER LOTTERY SECRETARY LANDS NEW JOB WITH HELP FROM RICK SCOTT via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – Cynthia O’Connell began work last week as the director of the Florida Prepaid College Foundation, where she will be responsible for raising money for scholarships that are handed out by the organization. During her four and a half years leading the Florida Lottery, O’Connell pushed lottery sales to nearly $6 billion through an aggressive effort involving scratch-off tickets and expanded sales to retailers who had previously resisted selling lottery tickets. But she resigned after a series of news stories detailed her work habits and spending, including questions about her use of an agency credit card. Florida Prepaid College Board spokeswoman Shannon Colavecchio said O’Connell was recommended for the job by the governor’s office. She was viewed as an “ideal candidate” because of her extensive ties to the state’s colleges and universities, according to the spokeswoman. O’Connell, whose late husband was once president of the University of Florida, spent 10 years on the UF board of trustees.

TWEET, TWEET: @ChristineSexton: @FLGovScott waching out for his peeps. First Armstrong @ DOH now Scott gets Cynthia O”Connell a new job @ 100k

HAPPENING TODAY — CABINET TO INTERVIEW NEW INSURANCE, REVENUE CHIEFS via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Scott and the Florida Cabinet meet at 9 a.m. in the Cabinet chambers to interview finalists for insurance commissioner and executive director of the Florida Department of Revenue. Finalists include Delray Beach Republican Rep. Bill Hager and Jeffrey Bragg, who operated a federal terrorism risk insurance program.

INSURANCE COMMISSIONER CANDIDATE MISLED INVESTORS, SUIT SAID via the Palm Beach Post – One of two candidates for insurance commissioner set to be interviewed by the Florida Cabinet was accused in a lawsuit of signing misleading documents in a flood insurance venture that harmed investors to the tune of tens of millions of dollars … Jeffrey S. Bragg, as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Insurance Management Solutions Group Inc., signed a “false and misleading registration statement” in connection with a stock offering, according to a suit filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa in 2000. “As defendants later admitted, the prospectus failed to disclose that (the company’s) flood mapping and flood zone determination subsidiary, Geotrac, was not compatible with the company’s other line of business and, as a result, could not be operated profitably or be integrated into the company,” the suit said. The case was settled in 2003, records show.

GOV, CABINET CONSIDER BUYING HISTORIC PASCO RANCH via Jeff Schweers of the Tampa Tribune – Scott and the Florida Cabinet will consider a proposal to buy 617 of the 632 acres that make up the Phillips-Mathis Ranch as a conservation easement to protect it from encroaching residential development but still allow cattle ranching. The $6 million cost would be split evenly between the state and Pasco County. The Pasco County Commission approved the purchase March 8. The property has been owned by the McKendree family for four generations, and for more than 150 years has been used for cattle grazing and beef production, according to a staff analysis. Its proximity to State Road 52 and Old Pasco Road west of Interstate 75 makes the ranch vulnerable to expanding residential development to the south and east, the staff analysis said.

TWO OFFICIALS WITH DBPR APPEAR HEADED FOR BIGGER AND BETTER THINGS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott and the Cabinet are expected to appoint a new director of the state’s tax collection agency, the Department of Revenue, and Scott’s favorite is said to be Leon Biegalski, a deputy secretary at DBPR overseeing the four divisions: parimutuel wagering, alcoholic beverages and tobacco, hotels and restaurants and condos, timeshares and mobile homes. Biegalski, 47, has also worked for the departments of agriculture and transportation, but he has spent most of his public career at DBPR where he began as a staff attorney in 1993. Another DBPR official who might be on the move is Will Spicola, the agency’s legal counsel … a leading candidate to succeed the governor’s general counsel, Tim Cerio, whose last day is this coming Friday, April 1.

SCOTT CAN MAKE AMENDS WITH ELECTIONS SUPERVISORS BY APPROVING PAY RAISE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott once proposed a numbering system to judge their performances, but backed off after intense criticism. He wanted them to “purge” the voter rolls of suspected noncitizens, which became a flop with national implications when supervisors lost faith in state data. His chief elections adviser tried to stonewall their goal of online voter registration by 2017, but later became a supporter. Now, Scott can make amends with one stroke of his pen. He must soon decide whether to approve pay raises of nearly 20 percent to supervisors, who are critical to the state’s hopes of an efficient and trouble-free presidential election and who face unique challenges because district lines for congressional and state Senate seats have changed, creating potential confusion among voters. Scott has often opposed across-the-board pay increases for public employees — and last week he vetoed his first bill from the 2016 session for that very reason. He could let the raises go into effect without his signature, but he has not decided on any bill that way since 2012.

WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE WANTS YOU TO READ — FLORIDA AMONG TOP IN NATION FOR INCOME GROWTH via Nina Lincoff of the South Florida Business Journal – Personal income grew an average of 5.2 percent in Florida in 2015, according to numbers released by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s significantly up from the 4.4 percent growth in personal income seen across the country, and puts the Sunshine State at No. 6 for income growth. The South and the Far West experienced the greatest growth in personal income in 2015, according to the analysis. Construction, retail trade and wholesale trade were the industries which contributed to the most overall growth in personal income in Florida.

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SCOTT BREAKS PROMISE TO ENACT TOUGHER ENVIRONMENTAL PENALTIES via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – For the second session in a row, Scott made no progress toward his re-election campaign promise to enact tougher environmental penalties … so far, his priority has been helping businesses avoid fines. There has been one bill intended to increase fines for only a tiny slice of businesses regulated by the environmental department — oil and gas — and that has failed. In 2016, legislators proposed a bill that set rules for “high-pressure well stimulation” — a controversial type of oil and gas extraction known as fracking. The bill would have increased the civil penalty from $10,000 per day to $25,000 per day for violations that would have harmed the air, water, animals or property. The bill passed some committees but never made it to a full vote in the Senate or the House and died for the year when the session ended March 11.

FLORIDA BAR URGES SCOTT TO VETO ALIMONY LEGISLATION via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Three years ago … Scott vetoed an alimony reform bill that sponsors now admit was flawed because it could have retroactively altered existing divorce and alimony settlements. Lawmakers substantially modified that proposal in this year’s legislative session. But the bill (SB 668), which has yet to reach Scott’s desk, is facing opposition from some women’s groups and the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar because of a controversial provision involving child sharing. Rep. Colleen Burton and Kelli Stargel, the key sponsors of the legislation, reached a compromise with the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar on the long-debated overhaul of the state’s alimony laws. The measure would end permanent alimony and let judges use a formula to determine the length and amount of the alimony payments. It would generally limit payments to 25 to 75 percent of the length of the marriage. It would also allow a former partner to seek an adjustment or an end to the alimony if the paying partner retired or if the receiving partner increased his or her income by 10 percent. It would also allow for a modification if the receiving partner was in a new “supportive” relationship. But despite the agreement on the alimony changes, the Family Law Section is asking Scott to veto the new bill because of another provision that would establish a “premise” that all divorce cases involving children should start on the basis of equal child sharing.

FLORIDA HEALTH AGENCY DROPS CHARGES AGAINST PLANNED PARENTHOOD via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The Agency for Health Care Administration dropped a case alleging that three clinics in St. Petersburg, Naples and Fort Myers were performing abortions in the second trimester of a pregnancy but were only licensed for first-trimester procedures. Ultimately, the issue came down to the definition of when the first trimester of a pregnancy ends and the second begins. In reprimanding the clinics, the agency put the end of a trimester two weeks earlier than Planned Parenthood, which said it has always counted the length of a pregnancy starting at the woman’s last menstrual period — a commonly accepted method. But an abortion measure signed into law by Scottsettled the issue. Under Florida law, the second trimester now begins 12 weeks after gestation. Planned Parenthood is asking an administrative law judge to order the state to pay for attorney’s fees and court costs.

PEOPLE IN AND OUT OF CITIZENS PROPERTY INSURANCE HAD A BAD YEAR IN THE FLORIDA LEGISLATURE via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – In short, it was a bad year in the Florida Legislature for consumers both in and out of Citizens. On both fronts legislators had bills lined up in the final days of the Legislature that would have addressed both topics. But when the dust settled and the annual session ended earlier this month, the bill to help those moved out of Citizens had been neutered and the other to address increasing water claims against Citizens that threaten to spike rates was killed altogether. Some good consumer protections survived, but State Sen. Anitere Flores admitted that it was with a “heavy heart” she had to agree to kill her proposal that would have allowed home­owners steered out of Citizens to return within three years if they get hit with some of the astronomical rate increases she said homeowners are often facing after they leave Citizens. She cited examples of homeowners in Miami-Dade getting hit with 200 percent premium increases just a year or two after being kicked out of Citizens.

LEGISLATORS RATE THEMSELVES AFTER 2016 SESSION via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – Lawmakers are graded by various advocacy groups, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the tea-party group Americans for Prosperity. Those report cards are based on elected officials’ support of or opposition to legislation and issues key to that group’s platform. That means an F from the NRA, for example, can be a badge of honor to some lawmakers. What about leadership roles? Sen. Aaron Bean, Sen. Rob Bradley, Sen. Charlie Dean and Rep. Charles McBurney all chair powerful committees. Four other delegation members lead subcommittees. But those positions indicate seniority and personal relationships with GOP legislative leaders as much as they do leadership qualities. We could also look at things like fundraising and the number of bills passed. Those indicate success in one area of politics but still not a comprehensive view of an individual’s effectiveness. What do the lawmakers themselves say were their greatest accomplishments during the 60-day session? I asked each delegation member to provide a brief review of his or her own performance. Read those self-evaluations and tell me, or better yet tell them, what you think.

GOOD READ — FOR CHRIS SPROWLS, SHOT AT LEADERSHIP MEANS AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE “AS BOLD AS POSSIBLE” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Friends say Sprowls is a genuinely nice person who cares deeply about his community and the state of Florida as a whole. Those traits will serve him well if he becomes Speaker of the House in the coming years. “He’s a selfless leader,” Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran said. “He’s exactly what the class needs.” Sprowls said lawmakers should focus on wide-sweeping legislation and bold reforms while in Tallahassee. Each year they leave home, giving up time from their families and jobs, and Sprowls said he doesn’t give up “a lot of precious memories to go up there and trim around the edges” … “One of the things you’re seeing is people are frustrated that (lawmakers) go to Washington, D.C., they go to Tallahassee, and they don’t do what’s promised,” he said, before going on to say lawmakers should be “as bold as possible.” It is that mindset that makes him well-suited for the position, said Corcoran.

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EPILOGUE, CON’T: MARCO RUBIO’S SECRET (MONEY) LEGACY via Shane Goldmacher of POLITICO – Rubio’s campaign is dead. His secret-money legacy lives on. No presidential candidate fighting for their party’s nomination has ever benefited from as much undisclosed cash, and watchdogs worry the pro-Rubio group’s unchecked activity serves as a dangerous precedent that will soon become common practice. The pro-Rubio nonprofit, known as the Conservative Solutions Project, was created in early 2014 and run by some of the same political operatives who would later lead his super PAC, including South Carolina strategist Warren Tompkins. Both groups can accept unlimited donations from donors, but unlike the super PAC, the nonprofit can keep its contributors hidden from the public — permanently. Loose nonprofit tax laws, and an unusual filing schedule set up by its creators, ensure the pro-Rubio nonprofit will file little paperwork covering the primary period until April 2017 — months after the next president is sworn in. And even then, no donors will be named.

ALASKA GOP LETS MARCO RUBIO KEEP THE DELEGATES HE WON via The Associated Press – The Alaska Republican Party has decided to let Rubio keep the five delegates he won during the state’s presidential preference poll … it had reassigned the delegates Rubio won in the March 1 preference poll because he suspended his campaign. But party chairman Peter Goldberg said Rubio asked to retain the delegates bound to him, at least through the first nominating ballot at this summer’s national convention. Party spokeswoman Suzanne Downing said the state GOP consulted with the Republican National Committee and its attorneys and were told the decision rested with the party. Alaska will have 28 delegates. Cruz, who won the preference poll, was awarded 12 delegates. Runner-up Trump was awarded 11.

TRUMP READY TO VISIT WISCONSIN, BUT TED CRUZ HAS HEADSTART via Thomas Beaumont and Scott Bauer of The Associated Press – Trump is planning to make his first campaign visit to Wisconsin …  But Cruz has gotten a head-start on the contest, racking up influential endorsements, campaigning in key regions and supported by bullish advertising campaign. A solid Cruz win in Wisconsin would narrow Trump’s path to the nomination, heap pressure on the billionaire to sweep the remaining winner-take-all primaries this spring, and increase the chances of a contested party convention in July. “The results in Wisconsin will impact significantly the primaries to come,” Cruz told The Associated Press after a rally in Oshkosh. “Wisconsin, I believe, will play a critical role continuing to unify Republicans behind our campaign. The only way to beat Donald Trump is with unity.” Cruz is positioning himself to win Wisconsin … The first primary since he began collecting the backing of establishment Republicans, such as Jeb Bush, adamant about eliminating Trump.

TRUMP’S GIANT CONVENTION CON via Mickey Edwards of POLITICO Magazine – Trump is likely on the verge of losing the Republican primary, falling short of the number of delegates required to win the presidential nomination. But, as bullies are wont to do, Trump is now trying desperately to change the rules – to argue that the nomination should go not to the candidate who wins 1,237 delegates but to whoever comes closest. What’s wrong with that argument? Electing a U.S. president is not a schoolyard game, where goalposts change when bullies whine. There’s a reason a candidate has to make it to 1,237 votes to win the nomination. Each party’s goal is to put forth a nominee whom the party’s members, represented by their elected delegates, believe will best reflect the party’s collective judgment … At the convention this summer … the delegates will vote on who they think best represents the Republican Party until a single candidate does receive the necessary votes. … That person could be Trump, but it probably won’t be.

TRUMP’S EMERGENCE FUELS NATURALIZATION EFFORTS LOCALLY, NATIONALLY via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – In response to the Trump phenomenon, Latino activist groups are holding naturalization workshops to get more eligible immigrants to become citizens this fall, just in time to participate in this year’s general election. Over the weekend, such workshops — part of the “Stand up to Hate” campaign to stop Trump — were held across the country. In West Tampa … a naturalization workshop sponsored by the SEIU Florida and the League of United Latin American Citizens was conducted, though they eschewed any mention of politics. “There’s a lot of people in our community who are legal permanent residents and who understand that they’ve been here for several years, and they have just not taken that step to become a citizen, and we want to help them take that step forward,” said Pamela Gomez with the Florida Immigrant Coalition. Applicants must also pay a $680 naturalization fee, though officials … discussed how those who might struggle in paying that price might receive assistance getting it waived.

‘MEAN GIRLS’ READING TRUMP’S TWEETS WORKS SURPRISINGLY WELL via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post – Trump‘s tweets often include rejoinders like “sad!” and veiled threats, along with declarations about how so-and-so is a “loser” and that people don’t like them. It all almost sounds like the Twitter feed of … a high schooler. Or even a “mean girl.” Which is why this video featuring “mean teenage girls” acting out Trump’s tweets works pretty well.

WITH ECHOES OF 2008, BERNIE SANDERS VOWS TO FIGHT AS PATH NARROWS via Lisa Lerer and Ken Thomas of The Associated Press – Just as Clinton did in 2008, Sanders and his team are vowing to take their fight all the way to the party convention in July with an aggressive push for delegates in next month’s contests in Wisconsin, New York and five northeastern states. They’re ratcheting up focus on her weaknesses, particularly with independents and younger voters. And Sanders is casting himself as the most electable Democrat in the general election, an effort targeted at wooing super delegates, the party insiders who play a big role in picking the nominee. There’s little question that Sanders has tapped into a powerful force within the Democratic party. But his campaign has always had a fight ahead of it. And despite his wins in 15 contests that shot seems to have grown even longer in recent weeks.

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JOE BIDEN CAMPAIGNS IN SOUTH FLORIDA FOR PATRICK MURPHY via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Lesson one for Murphy: No politician works a room quite like Biden. He scooped up a little boy, who squealed with delight. He kissed a baby. He posed for photographs. At one point, Murphy offered to take a photo of the VP and a diner himself, before a Biden staffer jumped in to ensure Murphy was in front of the screen, not behind it. “Say hello to Patrick,” Biden said, trying — unsuccessfully — to keep the focus on Murphy. “He’s a great congressman, and he’s going to be a great senator.” Later, he told another table, “He’s my guy. And you know where my heart is.” Before anyone could make a crack about Murphy’s young age — he’s 32– Biden mentioned he was first elected to the Senate when he was 29. “He’s old!” Standing before a small scrum of reporters, Biden spoke about the importance of Florida’s swing Senate seat — and the state’s role in the November presidential election. “Florida’s the key, man. We win Florida, we win the presidency,” Biden said. Republican front-runner Donald Trump, he predicted, will “be extremely competitive here.”

U.S. SENATE TRACKER: Republican Carlos Beruff will be in Lake Suzy and Fort Myers.

UNSURPRISING ENDORSEMENT OF THE DAY — OBAMA BACKS DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times –  … calling her “a strong, progressive leader in Congress and a hardworking, committed Chair of our national Party since I proudly nominated her to the role in 2011.” The endorsement comes as the longtime politician faces a challenge from her left. Democratic opponent Tim Canova is running in the style of Bernie Sanders, bemoaning big money in politics and Wall Street. Obama said of Wasserman Schultz: “She always stands up and fights for what is right for her district while passionately supporting middle class families. Throughout my time as President I have seen Debbie bring an unwavering commitment to her family, her constituents, and our shared goals of protecting seniors, supporting working families, and expanding economic opportunity for more people. I strongly endorse her re-election to Congress and look forward to her future service on behalf of the people of South Florida.”

RANDOLPH BRACY ENDORSES DARREN SOTO IN CD 9 RACE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Bracy, an Orlando Democrat, cited his work with Soto in the Florida Legislature, particularly for their joint effort to pass a bill to make it easier for undocumented youth to obtain Florida’s driver’s licenses under certain conditions. “Darren and I have worked together to make Florida a better place for all. Together we passed a bill to make obtaining a driver’s license easier for DREAMers, which wasn’t easy to do in a Republican-led Legislature,” Bracy stated in a news release … “Darren isn’t afraid to fight the tough battles. He is an effective legislator who has the experience to serve Central Florida best in Congress.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORSMax Richtman, CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), will announce NCPSSM PAC’s endorsement of Val Demings for Florida’s 10th Congressional District. News conference begins 10:30 a.m. EST at the Fran Carlton Recreation Center, 11 N Forest Ave. in Apopka.

ORLANDO DEMOCRAT VIC TORRES DRAWS PRIMARY CHALLENGE IN SD 15 CONTEST via Florida Politics –  Bob Healy Jr. filed for the seat at the end of February and is so far the only candidate challenging Torres for the Democratic-leaning seat. Healy is a former board member of the Osceola County Expressway Authority and runs a pair of funeral homes in Central Florida. Torres has gotten off to a solid start in fundraising. The second term representative had to pause his fundraising efforts during the 2016 Legislative Session, though his burn rate was low as well, leaving him with about $44,000 on-hand heading into March.

SAVE THE DATE: State Rep. Ed Narain will hold his official campaign kickoff Thursday, April 7, in the race for Senate District 19. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the Open Café, 3222 N. 34th St. in Tampa. RSVP at or (813) 336-1913.

DIANE HART ENTERS HD 61 RACE, SAYS IT’S HER TIME via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The longtime businesswoman/activist said this month she’s running for the House District 61 seat in Tampa … Although this will be her first run for office, she’s been thinking about doing so for a couple of years. She said she considered seeking a Tampa City Council seat in 2019, but began thinking of HD 61 when word began to spread in local circles that Narain was contemplating a move to the Legislature’s upper chamber. Born and raised in East Tampa, Hart has been the proprietor of Ms. Dee’s World of Beauty, a hair salon, since the 1980s. Later came involvement with the East Tampa Business and Civic Association, where she become an advocate for adding sidewalks, enhanced lighting and other basic infrastructure improvements in East Tampa neighborhoods. More than a decade ago she became involved in helping secure East Tampa as a CRA.

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Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda tells the story of U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown’s battle with the courts and the media over her congressional district and a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into her financial dealings. Florida Times Union Bureau Chief Tia Mitchell who received the brunt of Browns fiery remarks during a tense press conference, shares her reaction with Gomes. Also, the consumer health advocacy organization, Florida CHAIN is calling on Gov. Rick Scott to extend the same compassion he’s giving to former Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong by helping him to keep his health coverage, to the nearly 600,000 Floridians who are left without access to care. Gomes talks with Florida CHAIN board member LuMarie Polivka-West who says Scott and the Legislature should work to close the coverage gap through the Affordable Care Act.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to “fundraising kingpin” Chris Korge.


A BASEBALL RENAISSANCE ON FLORIDA’S EAST COAST via Ken Belson of The New York Times – The $148.5 million spring training complex will help rebalance the geographic alignment in Florida, bringing two teams that play in out-of-the-way corners of the state closer to their rivals. To date, the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals, which share a spring training complex in Jupiter; the Mets in Port St. Lucie; and the Nationals farther north in Viera are the four remaining teams on the Atlantic coast. Like the Nationals, the Astros, who have played in Kissimmee in Central Florida since the 1980s, ride two or more hours on a bus to get to many away games. By sharing a complex in West Palm Beach, the teams would cut their travel time and attract more fans eager to see their team play at home and on the road. Just as significant, the county and state are paying for the construction of the complex to lure the Astros and the Nationals. Aware that voters would oppose any tax increases to pay for sports facilities … county commissioners dedicated a slice of an existing hotel bed tax to cover the county’s $113 million share of the project, which includes construction and financing. The state committed another $50 million over 25 years. While these figures pale when compared with the hundreds of millions of dollars that governments lavish on pro teams building stadiums and arenas, critics said that sports facilities rarely generated the economic benefits that their proponents contended. Palm Beach County, which lost the Atlanta Braves in 1997, was happy for the new tenants. But it has been forced to complete the project in 14 months, a schedule that could tighten further if an unexpected event like a hurricane occurs.

‘BATMAN V SUPERMAN’ BROKE RECORDS AT THE BOX OFFICE. BUT THAT DOESN’T JUSTIFY ITS EXISTENCE. via Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post – … the grim, galumphing behemoth has earned an admittedly impressive $424 million since Thursday, $254 million of it in overseas markets. But many observers estimate that “Batman v Superman,” which had a combined production and marketing budget of about $400 million, will need to earn at least $1 billion in order to break even, after theaters take their cut. Over the weekend, “Batman v Superman” earned an okay-not-great B CinemaScore based on audience polls — the gentleman’s C of the movie world … chances are that business will drop off precipitously this week, making it hard to go too far past that magic $1 billion number. Warner Bros. might have made a fatal error: At a time when everything is “execution dependent” — a term that was once reserved for quirky one-off comedies and sophisticated dramas with no built-in audiences — the person behind the camera needs to have unerring instincts for fan service plus an impeccable sense of story, aesthetics, tone and performance. J.J. Abrams skillfully threaded that very needle with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” nicely teeing up that threadbare franchise for the brilliant director Rian Johnson to send it into genuinely novel and reinvigorating territory. In the right hands, Affleck and Henry Cavill could still make convincing caped confreres, and Eisenberg might even be able to dial his performance back to a recognizably human level of malevolence.

IS ALGEBRA AN UNNECESSARY STUMBLING BLOCK IN U.S. SCHOOLS? via Karen Matthews of The Associated Press – “One out of 5 young Americans does not graduate from high school. This is one of the worst records in the developed world. Why? The chief academic reason is they failed ninth-grade algebra,” said political scientist Andrew Hacker, author of “The Math Myth and Other STEM Delusions.” … at most, only 5 percent of jobs make use of algebra and other advanced math courses. He favors a curriculum that focuses more on statistics and basic numbers sense and less on (y – 3)2 = 4y – 12. “Will algebra help you understand the federal budget?” he asked. Many U.S. educators, including the architects of the Common Core standards, disagree, saying math just needs to be taught more effectively. It’s fine for students to have quantitative skills, they say, but algebra is important, too. In New York City, home to the nation’s largest public school system with 1.1 million pupils, just 52 percent of the students who took last year’s statewide Regents test in Algebra I passed, mirroring statistics elsewhere in the country.

NETFLIX’S U.S. CATALOG HAS SHRUNK BY MORE THAN 2500 TITLES IN LESS THAN 2.5 YEARS via Stephen Lovely of – It’s not your imagination – Netflix’s catalog is getting smaller. As competition in the OTT streaming space has increased, Netflix’s once-massive selection has decreased. In fact, it has shrunk by a third in less than two and a half years. The statistics are simple and remarkable: in January 2014, Netflix offered its US-based users a selection of 6,494 movies and 1,609 TV shows, for a total of 8,103 titles. As of March 23, 2016, they offer just 4,335 movies and 1,197 TV shows – 5,532 titles in total. That’s 2,571 fewer titles. In other words, Netflix’s catalog has shrunk 31.7 percent in less than two and a half years! So what’s going on with Netflix’s catalog? The data proves that selection is shrinking, but it doesn’t say anything about why. A good guess is the growing competition in the streaming space: with services like Hulu and Amazon Prime all bidding on streaming rights, the price is bound to rise.

OCULUS FOUNDER FLEW TO ALASKA TO DELIVER THE FIRST CONSUMER RIFT via Edgar Alvarez of Engadget – Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus, took it upon himself to deliver the first consumer version of his company’s virtual reality headset, the Rift. Ross Martin, a VR enthusiast and indie developer from Anchorage, Alaska was the lucky recipient of the device … “So grateful to Palmer Luckey and Oculus for coming all the way to Alaska,” he said in a tweet. “You guys are super cool!” Luckey, meanwhile, told gaming publication Polygon, “This didn’t come together until the last second, I’ve had a bunch of things that I’ve wanted to do over the years, and I was pretty adamant.” He added, “I said, ‘Hey guys, I’ve been working on this since 2009, we’ve been working on Oculus since 2012, I’ll be damned if some random delivery guy is going to get the satisfaction of delivering the first Rift. That’s mine.'”

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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