Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 5.20.16 – Working for the weekend

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.


A Florida man is accused of impersonating a U.S. senator to avoid paying off his home loan.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Tampa reports that a grand jury indicted 67-year-old Sidney Hines this week on five counts of impersonating a federal officer or employee. He faces up to 15 years in prison.

Court papers say Hines secured a HomeSaver Advance loan of $5,864 for his New Port Richey home in October 2008. Hines reportedly failed to make the payments.

Officials say Hines called a collection agency five times between March 2013 and December 2014. He claimed to be a U.S. senator from Illinois identified in the indictment as “R.D.” and said Hines’ HSA loan had been paid in full.

THIS FLORIDA MAN IS AN ACTUAL LEGISLATIVE CANDIDATE via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — A Tampa Republican, who calls himself “Mr. Manners” on his website, has filed paperwork Tuesday to run for the Florida Senate in District 19. Houman will likely face an uphill battle, but not just because it’s a heavily Democratic district. He admits to having a felony DUI (although he says on his website that he petitioned to get his rights restored), answered “maybe” to a question on his website about whether he has broken any other laws, and said the difference between him and other politicians is “a good lawyer.”


HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND: FLORIDA DEMS CONFAB — The Florida Democratic Party holds its “Swing state blue gala” at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando on Saturday night, with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro slated to give the keynote address.

First elected as mayor of San Antonio in 2009 and reelected twice after that, the 41-year-old Castro made his first big impression on the national scene when he gave the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in 2012. In early 2014, he left Texas to become HUD Secretary, and no Democrat has been mentioned more often as a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton this fall.

Castro told CNN last week that despite that hype, he hadn’t been vetted by the Clinton campaign, and dismissed the speculation by saying, “That’s not going to happen.”

Castro has recently become the source of criticism from progressive groups, who allege he’s shown a bias towards the Wall Street crowd by the way that HUD has been selling delinquent mortgages . Though HUD officials deny the figures, activists claim that during Castro’s tenure at the agency, 98 percent of problematic mortgages the department has sold went to Wall Street firms say they were responsible for the housing crises in the first place.

To allay those concerns, HUD officials announced this week that they will make changes to what is called the Distressed Asset Stabilization Program. Politico reported that “Castro’s actions could potentially defuse an issue that activists have been using to question his progressive credentials — and he’ll be doing it at the moment the running mate search has begun to get serious at Clinton campaign headquarters.”

AND A SLEW OF SUNSHINE STATE POLITICOS CELEBRATING THEIR BIRTHDAY THIS WEEKEND including Southern Strategy Group’s Matt BrockelmanAnna EskamaniTim HeberleinMatt MitchellJim Rosica‘s better half Erin, Tampa City Councilman (and next Mayor?) Mike Suarez, and the great Steve Uhlfelder. Celebrating this weekend is Speaker Tom Feeney, James Blair, and our friends Sam Ard, Rep. Dane EagleJordan Raynor and Eileen Stuart.

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STORY YOU WON’T READ IN SUNBURN — “Poll: Carlos Beruff surges to lead with Republican activists” via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times. It’s an email poll. To “dedicated Republican activists” (so no demographic information is available). Conducted by a county party located in Beruff’s backyard. This is incredibly stupid — and irresponsible — reporting on Wallace’s part. Beruff may, in fact, be leading, but as Rick Wilson said this info was a press release disguised as a poll.

HAPPENING TODAY: Concerned Veterans for America hosts a Defend and Reform Town Hall in Tampa featuring Rep. Ron DeSantis. Event is from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. (Doors open at 6:30 p.m.) at The Cuban Club of Tampa, 2010 N Avenida Republica de Cuba. Attendees are asked to register for the event online. RSVP to CVA Communications Specialist Sarah Shriver at

U.S. SENATE TRACKER: Beruff will be in the Panhandle on Friday; he is scheduled to be in Marathon on Saturday. Lopez-Cantera will be in Panama City. Todd Wilcox will be in Orlando.

BOOM — CURT CLAWSON SAYS HE WON’T SEEK RE-ELECTION via the Naples Daily News – Clawson … wants to spend more time in Southwest Florida with his ailing father. The Bonita Springs Republican first won the seat in a special election two years ago … Running as an “outsider” in 2014, Clawson had always said he never planned on staying for very long in Congress. But he said the death of his mother, Cherie, last summer affected Clawson and his father more deeply than he thought it would, prompting his decision not to seek re-election to a full second term … “With the passing of my mom, it’s a good time to show support for my dad and be close to (him)” … Clawson said he would finish out his term, which expires in early January.

CLAWSON’S DECISION COULD RESHAPE SWFL POLITICS via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — Just hours after Clawson announced his decision, Chauncey Goss announced he planned to run for the seat. Goss, a Sanibel Island Republican, ran for the seat in 2012. Goss is the son of former CIA Director Porter Goss, who represented Southwest Florida in the U.S. House for nearly 16 years.

— In the 2014 special election, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto came in second behind Clawson. The popular Fort Myers Republican received the backing of many of her colleagues, and was endorsed by Sarah Palin. While Benaquisto would be a top contender if she decides to jump in the race, she is currently running for re-election unopposed and is poised to have a prominent role in the Florida Senate.

— Former state Rep. Paige Kreegel ran when the seat was open in both 2012 and again in 2014. … Marc Caputo with POLITICO Florida reported Kreegel said he might consider another run.

Byron Donalds, who ran in 2012, also said he is mulling his options. Donalds is currently running in House District 80, but said he was fielding calls from supporters asking about about his plans.

— Other Lee County Republicans to watch include Dane EagleHeather Fitzenhagen and Matt Caldwell. All three are running for re-election this year, and all of them have expressed interest in seeking higher office. In January, all three told FloridaPolitics.comthey haven’t ruled out a 2020 Florida Senate bid.

— While the congressional district includes most of Lee County, there are some Collier County Republicans who might be mulling a congressional campaign. Reps. Kathleen Passidomo and Matt Hudson are locked in a battle to replace Garrett Richter in the Florida Senate. It’s unlikely Passidomo will jump in the race — she has already received the backing from several top ranking Senate Republicans in her Senate District 28 bid — but it could be an enticing proposition.

— Others to watch for: Former Naples City Councilman Gary Price has considered the seat in the past, as has former state Rep. Dudley Goodlette. Republican Burt Saunders, a former state senator who is running for Collier County Commission, ran for the seat in 2008 as a no-party affiliation candidate.

— And in this crazy political year, no one should write-off the possibility that Trey Radel could try to stage a comeback. The Republican has been making his way back into the public arena. In recent months, he’s appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, has written op-eds for CNN and is writing a book is due out early next year.

WORLD’S LARGEST AIR LINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION BACKS SUSANNAH RANDOLPH FOR CONGRESS – The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) threw its support behind Randolph in the race for Florida’s 9th Congressional District this week. ALPA represents more than 52,000 pilots worldwide … “ALPA is proud to support Susannah Randolph for Congress in Florida’s 9th District because she will tirelessly fight to protect the safety and security of our national airspace, as well as good paying, American jobs,” said Elizabeth Baker, Director of Government Affairs for ALPA International. “We are confident Susannah will go to Congress with a forward-looking agenda to grow the middle class, protect pilot jobs and rebuild our nation’s infrastructure.”

TAMPA ATTORNEY COLLECTING PETITIONS TO RUN AGAINST ALCEE HASTINGS – SO HE CAN GAIN ACCESS TO HIM via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Michael Steinberg focuses on Social Security, Medicare and disability issues. He’s a former chairman of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party and unsuccessful political candidate. He also was a candidate for president earlier this year. He’s now collecting signatures to qualify to run against Florida CD 20 Democrat Hastings, but he says he’ll gladly back out if he can get the South Florida lawmaker to back his pet legislation – which is to try to decrease the time that veterans and Social Security disability claimants take to get their case heard … Sternberg admits that he really has no interest in running a full-fledged campaign against the longtime incumbent. He just wants to get his attention, but scoffs at the idea that he might be able to pick up the phone and speak to the congressman. “I’ve written letters … Do you know how hard it is to get an appointment with a congressperson? I have to give thousands of dollars just to get to shake somebody’s hand. And take a picture with him.”

HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND: Riviera Beach Democratic Rep. Bobby Powell, a candidate this year for Senate District 30, is scheduled to appear at the Lake Worth Democratic Club. Saturday. Event begins 11 a.m. at the Brogue’s Australian Boomerang Pub, 621 Lake Ave. in Lake Worth.

— “Direct mail round-up: Jim Waldman stakes out right in SD 34” via Florida Politics

PAT ROONEY BACKS AIDE ANDREW WATT FOR HIS HOUSE SEAT via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – With Rooney opting not to seek re-election this year, his longtime legislative aide Watt … has filed for the state House District 85 seat with Rooney’s support. “He’s definitely going to be able to hit the ground running … He’s as in-touch with that district as anybody,” Rooney said of Watt. Republicans have a 37-to-33.4 percent registration edge in north-county District 85. Democrat Jay Rideout has also opened a campaign. Watt, 36, worked on Rooney’s first campaign in 2010 and then as his House aide until this month, when he resigned so he could run for office.

SAVE THE DATE: Citrus County physician Dr. Ralph Massullo is holding a fundraising reception Wednesday, May 25, to support his bid for House District 34. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the Governors Club Library, 202 S Adams St. in Tallahassee.

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RICK SCOTT’S OFFICE REVIEWING SANFORD BURNHAM UF SWITCH via Gary Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – Scott’s office is in the early stages of reviewing a possible move by Sanford Burnham to leave its publicly-subsidized spot in Medical City and its biomedical research in the hands of the University of Florida. The move entails Sanford Burnham Prebys leaving its 180,171 square feet digs in Medical City for UF. In 2006, the medical research firm was approved for $367 million in state and local tax incentives to set up shop and create 300 jobs. It has added 262 jobs as of last year, and Florida has paid out $153.7 million out of the $155.3 million in state incentives available to Sanford Burnham, according to state records. The City of Orlando paid $32.7 million and Orange County pledged $42 million for the project.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will announce April job numbers at 10 a.m. at ODC Construction, 5701 Carder Road in Orlando.

JOBS BOSS: CISSY PROCTOR TALKS FLORIDA’S FUTURE via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics –In the months since she took over the helm, [Proctor] has traveled the state trying to understand the Florida’s needs, talking to business owners, local business organizations and regional workforce agencies along the way. “We’re making sure we’re doing economic and community workforce development in a competitive way,” said Proctor. “We want to make sure that if a company is coming into the state and they need the infrastructure to build a building, they need contacts, they need a trained and talented workforce that we can help bring all of that together.” Proctor had spent three years with the agency, serving most recently as the department’s chief of staff. She knew the ropes, the players and what issues could arise during the legislative session. “It was hit the ground running,” she said. “The great thing was, I knew what our legislative agenda was going to be. I knew what our potential issues would be. I knew what questions senators and representatives might have of us, because I had heard them before.”

SUPREME COURT REJECTS FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT’S ATTEMPT TO MAKE CUSTOMERS PAY FOR FRACKING via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – In a rebuke to Florida Power & Light, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that state regulators exceeded their authority when they allowed the company to charge customers for its speculative investment into an Oklahoma-based fracking company. In June of last year, the Public Service Commission rejected its staff recommendation and unanimously approved guidelines that gave FPL the right to charge its customers up to $750 million a year for speculative natural gas fracking activities without oversight from regulators for the next five years. In a 6-1 opinion, written by Justice Ricky Polston, the court concluded that the PSC did not have statutory authority to authorize the charge and called its decision “overreach … Treating these activities as a hedge requires FPL’s end-user consumers to guarantee the capital investment and operations of a speculative oil and gas venture without the Florida Legislature’s authority,” Polston wrote. Justice Charles Canady dissented with an opinion, arguing that the PSC did have the authority to allow the costs of the investment to be recovered under the FPL fuel clause.

STATE ECONOMISTS UNSURE OF GAMBLING AMENDMENT PRICE TAG via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Economists haggled for three days over producing a report and a 500-word summary of their examination of the Voter Control of Gambling amendment. At times using skills more typical of sociologists and philosophers, the economists debated which verbs to use, created compound adjectives and speculated about how individuals and businesses would adapt to new regulations … they concluded that there are too many “uncertainties” to determine whether passage would cost the state money. Economists from the House, Senate, Governor’s Office and the Office of Economic and Demographic Research said the task was complicated by their inability to determine whether there will be a change in behavior such as gamblers taking up another taxable activity. Also, resolution of a series of lawsuits and hearings on gambling regulations could change which activities are authorized before the amendment goes before voters and, if passed, whether those games would be allowed to continue.

STATE TO APPEAL COURT RULING ALLOWING STATE FARM TO KEEP POLICY TALLIES PRIVATE via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – Florida’s new insurance commissioner has decided to appeal a circuit court ruling allowing State Farm Insurance Co. to opt out of submitting policy-count totals to a publicly available database … David Altmaier … made the decision “following a thorough review” of the order issued May 2 by Leon County Circuit Judge James C. Hankinson … The appeal will be filed in the 1st District Court of Appeal by June 1, Bogner said. The database, called QUASR or Quarterly Supplemental Report, collects information from insurers about personal and commercial property insurance policies sold in the state, including by state-run insurer Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

WHAT TERESA JACOBS IS READING — THE NFL PRO BOWL IS MOVING TO ORLANDO via Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg – The National Football League is moving its Pro Bowl to Orlando from Honolulu, which has hosted the all-star event every year but twice since 1979 … In Orlando, the game will be played at the Citrus Bowl, which underwent a $200 million renovation two years ago … The NFL’s Pro Bowl contract with Hawaii’s tourism authority expires May 31, and the league can opt out of the agreement. The Pro Bowl drew a 5.0 overnight rating on ESPN this year, down from 5.6 the previous year on the same network. It drew a 6.7 on NBC in 2014. While ratings have slipped, the Pro Bowl is consistently the highest-rated all-star game among the four major U.S. pro sports leagues.

HAPPENING TODAY: The Florida Board of Education meets on a number of issues, such as performance-funding reports for five state colleges and charter-school requests from Broward and Palm Beach counties. Meeting begins 9 a.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton, 5780 Major Blvd. in Orlando.


Bryan Cherry, Adams St. Advocates: Florida Public Guardian Coalition

Kevin ClearyMeghan HozaKen Pruitt, The P5 Group: Waste Management, Inc. of Florida; CNOW

Frank MayernickTracy MayernickJodi Lea Stevens: The Mayernick Group: Excellence in Education in Action

PERSONNEL NOTE: AT&T NAMES ALEJANDRO “ALEX” DOMINGUEZ REGIONAL EXTERNAL AFFAIRS DIRECTOR via Florida Politics – Dominguez will serve as AT&T’s new Director of External Affairs for South and Southwest Florida. In his new role, Dominguez will lead a team responsible for representing the telecom company with local governments in the region as well as with state lawmakers in Tallahassee. The role should prove natural for Dominguez, who has a long history in legislative and political affairs. “I’m honored to be working in this new capacity for AT&T and look forward to working with local leaders in South Florida and Southwest Florida,” Dominguez said.


Kim Hawkes has a new job: External Affairs, Office of Compassionate Use at Florida Department of Health

Katie Kelly has a new job: Deputy Chief of Staff at Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Alison Spiegel has a new job: Fellow at Hill+Knowlton Strategies

Nicole Stookey has a new job: Deputy Director of Legislative Planning at Florida Department of Health

Ben Weaver has a new job: Regional Director at Alan Grayson for U.S. Senate


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Dr. Lawrence Miller on Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ “political revolution” and whether it’s running out of gas.

Florida This Week  on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Former state Sen. Paula Dockery, La Gaceta publisher Patrick Manteiga,

On Point with Shannon Ogden on WFCN in Jacksonville: Dan Merkin Chair of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, Duval GOP Chair Cindy Graves, and Mark Woods of the Florida Times-Union.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: U.S. Rep. John Mica, Eatonville interim Mayor Eddie Cole, PolitiFact rates a Carlos Beruff claim about the Iran nuclear deal, and Alex Sink and Chris Ingram discuss the “bathroom bill” controversy sweeping the nation.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Jacksonville Mayo Clinic CEO Gianrico Farrugia, plus a segment featuring Sen. Marco Rubio‘s recent visit to Jax.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Steve VancoreGary YordonSean Pittman and Dr. Ed Moore talk bathrooms, civility and medical marijuana.

CAN’T WAIT TO READWhistlestop: My Favorite Stories from Presidential Campaign History by John Dickerson — “These are human stories full of drama and switchbacks, nervous gambits hatched in first floor hotel rooms, failures of will before the microphone and the crack up of long-planned stratagems.”


BEN & JERRY’S NEW ICE CREAM FLAVOR PACKS THE POLITICS via Ashley May of USA TODAY – The company just rolled out a new flavor, Empower Mint. It’s peppermint ice cream with fudge brownies and fudge swirls. While it sounds delicious, Ben & Jerry’s didn’t make it just to curb chocolatey mint cravings. Check out the flavor profile: “This fudge-filled flavor reflects our belief that voting gives everyone a taste of empowerment, & that an election should be more ‘by the people’ and less ‘buy the people!'” This reaction comes during the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act intact. Also, following the North Carolina bathroom law controversy.

GOOGLE EMBEDS AI IN NEW PRODUCTS TO MAKE SEARCH UBIQUITOUS via Jack Clark of Bloomberg Technology – The Alphabet Inc. division unveiled a new mobile messaging application called Allo containing a digital personal assistant, based on AI technology that powers other Google services like Inbox. At its I/O developer conference near its Silicon Valley headquarters, the company also showed off a voice-based search device called Google Home that uses the same assistant technology to answer questions when people are in their houses, a potentially potent rival to Inc.’s popular Echo gadget.

HAVE FEMALE JOURNALISTS ENDED THE BOYS-ON-THE-BUS ERA OF CAMPAIGN REPORTING? via Irina Aleksander of Vogue – Of the reporters who dip in and out of the [Clinton press corps], there are 26 women and only three men. … [AnnieKarni and [AmyChozick lead lives that are at once prestigious and entirely unglamorous. Though they’re on arguably the biggest story in modern politics, their days are spent jammed into buses and planes and the aggressively air-conditioned Marriotts and DoubleTrees of the intercoastal states, where they eat out of plastic containers and file stories from the carpeted floors of countless event spaces. … To maintain energy levels, Karni and Chozick have taken power-yoga classes in Des Moines and boxing classes in the suburbs of Las Vegas. In Miami, everyone kept quiet so that NPR’s Tamara Keith and the AP’s Lisa Lerer, who both have young children back home, could read them ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ via FaceTime … A few days before the March 15 primary, Jen Palmieri makes a rare appearance on the press plane to Cleveland and idly scrolls through her iPhone. “I’m so sick of my clothes,” she says. “Are you guys so sick of your clothes?” Chozick replies without looking up from her laptop. “I want to burn them.”

OPPORTUNITIES AND HURDLES WITH GOOGLE’S DAYDREAM VR VISION via Anick Jesdanun of The Associated Press – Google will develop a range of VR headsets that promise to be more comfortable and durable than its ultra-cheap Cardboard headset. Google will make one and share design guidelines with other manufacturers. There will also be a wireless motion controller — functioning like a fishing rod, a steering wheel or a pointer — to permit more-sophisticated VR experiences … Daydream headsets will work with a range of phone brands … But there are hurdles: you must buy a new phone … You’ll need a higher-end phone running the upcoming “N” version of Android … Though no price was announced, the Daydream headsets will be more expensive than Cardboard, likely in the ballpark of Samsung’s $100 Gear VR … Once Google’s devices are in the hands — and heads — of consumers, there will be more incentive for companies, educators and individuals to create VR apps. Google says leading brands like Netflix, HBO, The Wall Street Journal and game maker Electronic Arts have committed to Daydream. More apps and video could encourage even more people to buy headsets.

STUDY: MILLENNIALS MATCH BOOMERS IN ELIGIBLE VOTER SHARE via The Associated Press – The Pew Research Center says that boomers hold a slight edge with 69.7 million voting-age baby boomers, compared with 69.2 million millennials. But the figures comprise about 31 percent of the electorate each. While millennials have nearly as many potential voters as baby boomers, Pew says they lag far behind when it comes to actual voters. Census turnout estimates reviewed by Pew show just 46 percent of eligible millennials voted in the 2012 presidential election, compared with 69 percent of baby boomers … millennials had overtaken baby boomers as America’s largest living generation.

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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