Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for May 9 – Is Florida the epicenter of #NeverTrump?

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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.

NEVER MEANS NEVER

Not now. Not ever.

That’s the message at the heart of the #NeverTrump movement. While some Republicans have tepidly backed their party’s presumptive nominees, other continue to say under no circumstance will they vote for Donald Trump.

Want to find some of the leaders in the movement? Look no further than the Sunshine State.

Rick Wilson is leading the charge to block Trump, “never means never” is his constant refrain. Mac Stipanovich has called on Republicans to “deny him the presidency.” Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo have said they won’t vote for Trump; and on Friday, Jeb Bush officially joined the movement.

“In November, I will not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but I will support principled conservatives at the state and federal levels, just as I have done my entire life,” he said.

They are not alone in their opposition. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Ben Sasse have said no way, no how. Mitt Romney won’t be attending the GOP convention, where Trump will be crowned the nominee; neither will former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

Yet it is the continued opposition from Floridians that could prove most problematic for Trump as the race shifts into the general election mode. With 29 electoral votes, the Sunshine State is considered the crown jewel of swing states. And without Florida, Trump has little chance of being called Mr. President.

According to the Washington Post, the math looks like this: If Clinton wins the 19 states and the District of Columbia that every Democratic nominee has captured since 1992, she wins 242 electoral votes. She wins Florida? Make that 271.

Electoral votes needed to win the presidency: 270.

And despite blowing Republican hopefuls out of the water in the state’s March presidential preference primary, Trump isn’t well liked in the Sunshine State. A recent Associated Industries of Florida survey found 62 percent of Floridians had an unfavorable view of Trump. He was underwater in most demographics, and would lose to Clinton 49 percent to 36 percent.

#NeverTrump failed to stop his climb to the nomination, but its Florida core will try to stop him from winning in November.

“We couldn’t defeat Trump in the primary, but we refuse to be compromised by his fundamentally anti-conservative politics and ideology,” wrote Wilson in a New York Daily News column on Sunday. “We don’t love this mission, but we’re on it.”

— “Why Florida is most likely to cost Trump the White House” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

— “Trump faces hurdles to win Florida” via Zac Anderson of the Lakeland Ledger

JEB BUSH SAYS HE’S NOT VOTING FOR DONALD TRUMP OR HILLARY CLINTON via Sergio Bustos of The Associated Press – In a Facebook post … Bush says Trump has not demonstrated the temperament or strength of character needed to serve as president. Of Clinton, he says the former secretary of state is untrustworthy … he’s not optimistic either candidate will put the country on a better course. He says he plans to “support principled conservatives at the state and federal levels” this fall.

TRUMP REAX: “Jeb Bush signed a pledge. A binding pledge. Lindsay Graham signed a binding pledge that they would endorse. That they would support and endorse. That’s what it says. Now they’re breaking. You know, that’s a question of honor.”

BUSH’S CAMPAIGN SHOWS JUST HOW INSUFFERABLE BIG MONEY DONORS CAN BE via Sam Stein of the Huffington Post – Beyond the sheer number of hours that a politician puts into raising cash is another terrible downside: virtually all major donors view themselves as top-notch campaign operatives as well. And in exchange for their checks, they feel entitled to tell you just what exactly you’re doing wrong. As Bush’s presidential bid entered a tailspin over the summer of 2015, the overbearing donor political advice began piling up. “We could have probably had 19 full-time staffers dedicated just to the donor advice,” Bush’s former communications director, Tim Miller, said in the latest Candidate Confessional podcast. “I would sit next to him in the car and he would read me some of the advice.” Not surprisingly, people who have been highly successful in the world of finance feel that their acumen translates well to the world of politics. And on certain occasions the insights can be valuable. But what stood out to Miller was the type of issues that the Bush donors obsessed over. They worried about his clothes.

HILLARY CLINTON FORCES TARGET BUSH DONORS via Ben White of POLITICO – Clinton’s supporters in recent days have been making a furious round of calls to top Bush family donors to try to convince them that she represents their values better than Trump. Top targets for the Clinton team include people like Woody Johnson, Jeb Bush’s former finance chair and the owner of the New York Jets … One person close to Clinton said supporters of the former secretary of state drew up a list of Wall Street donors who supported Jeb Bush and other unsuccessful Republican candidates months ago but wanted to wait until Trump locked down the nomination before beginning to make the calls.

DEMOCRATIC ADVERTISING BLITZ AWAITS TRUMP via Chad Day and Julie Bykowicz of The Associated Press – Priorities USA … has already reserved $91 million in television advertising that will start next month and continue through Election Day. In addition, Clinton‘s campaign and Priorities USA have both debuted online videos that cast Trump in a negative light — a preview of what voters will see on TV over the next six months … Priorities USA’s TV buys … reveals a formidable 22-week advertising blitz through what the group considers key battleground states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia. In those states, Priorities USA will start ads in major metropolitan areas, then broaden its outreach to smaller cities as the November election approaches. The group will also start ads on satellite TV in September. The heaviest concentration is in Florida, where the group has reserved $23 million in time, mostly in Orlando and in Tampa. The group also plans to spend about $19.5 million in the traditional presidential bellwether state of Ohio.

DENNIS ROSS BUCKS PAUL RYAN ON TRUMP via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times –”Trust me, I haven’t been on the Donald Trump bandwagon, but I will support him, and I disagree with Ryan’s comment. I think it’s time we unite (and) … extend an olive branch and start working this out.”

GOOD READ — WHY GEORGE WASHINGTON WOULD HAVE AGREED WITH TRUMP via Michael Hirsh of POLITICO Magazine – Some of his proposals, like imposing 45 percent tariffs on Chinese goods, could seriously disrupt or even destroy the world trading system, causing a global depression. But Trump is also correct in suggesting that the current global system is an aberration in American history, that it may not be sustainable forever under current conditions, and that America should focus more on fixing our own economic house for a long time to come (a view shared, incidentally, by Barack Obama, who loves to say “it’s time to focus on nation-building at home”). The U.S. share of global defense spending has soared to more than a third of the total, while the American economy has dropped in size to one-quarter of global GDP; America spends more in total than the next seven largest countries combined: China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Britain, India, France and Japan. And to what end exactly? Trump, in condemning one of the worst instances of American overreach in U.S. history, the Iraq invasion, declared in his speech: “The world must know we do not go abroad in search of enemies.” The line was an allusion to the famous injunction of John Quincy Adams in 1821 that America “does not go in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.” Adams went on to warn, somewhat presciently, America should know that “once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force.” Read today: Iraq.

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TED CRUZ BLAMES MARCO RUBIO FOR FAILURE TO STOP TRUMP via CNN  Politico reported in March that Rubio rejected the idea of a “unity ticket.” But the sources close to Cruz and Rubio are now offering a much fuller picture of the extent of Cruz’s polling, the reasons why Rubio said no, and the resentment the Cruz people have about Rubio’s rejection of the idea.

Through friends and emissaries, the Cruz campaign tried to get Rubio on board. But Cruz could not reach him on the phone, and others reported back to the Cruz campaign that Rubio did not seem interested in having a discussion about this at all.

“He went off the grid,” said a source close to Cruz. Cruz campaign officials speculated that Rubio was interested in preserving his political viability for a contested GOP convention or the 2020 race.  A source familiar with Rubio’s thinking says there never really was a concrete offer from the Cruz campaign to team up — just vague discussions from donors about polls and the potential for such a move — but either way, he was not interested.

MARCO RUBIO’S POLITICAL REHABILITATION via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald –He’d lost big. But he found himself suddenly liberated from the unrelenting, 24-hour campaign spotlight and it showed. His candidacy had lasted 11 months, yet the attention on his every move had begun when he was elected five years earlier, the man anointed by Time magazine as “The Republican Savior.” Rubio knew little time in the Senate when he wasn’t a candidate, or a soon to be one — not that he’d ever admit it until now. “We have more time to dedicate to all this,” Rubio acknowledged in a recent interview … “We’re not out in the campaign trail — or getting ready for the campaign trail. And we’re not in the middle of a re-election campaign, either. It’s just 100 percent focused on getting all of this done and giving it your complete attention. And it’s enjoyable.” With seven months left in his term, Rubio has pointedly devoted himself to being full-time senator. “He’s responding as a senator from Florida should respond,” said his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Bill Nelson.

SCRAMBLING U.S. SENATE CANDIDATES PUSH CAMPAIGNS INTO THEIR RIVALS’ TURF via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – It’s a popular campaign strategy lately. None of the five Republicans seeking to replace Marco Rubio is well-known in his own territory, let alone statewide. That has emboldened each of them to tread into their rivals’ home base, eager to find supporters in a primary battle suddenly just two months away from the first ballots being cast. Two weeks ago … Carlos Lopez-Cantera spent a big part of his week toiling in Brandon, Ybor City and New Port Richey, an area in the shadows of the congressional district [DavidJolly has held since 2014. While setting up shop in Tampa Bay, Bradenton homebuilder Carlos Beruff has been trying to establish a foothold in Lopez-Cantera’s home county. On Tuesday, Beruff … was back in south Florida again meeting with GOP activists. Around the same time, Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox was in Jacksonville building support and raising money in an area DeSantis considers his backyard. Jolly later this month has a pair of events planned for Jacksonville. [RonDeSantis, a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy reserve, lives in neighboring St. Johns County and has represented parts of northeast Florida in Congress since 2012. DeSantis for his part was in Tampa holding court with military veterans less than 7 miles from where Wilcox went to high school and considers part of his base.

U.S. SENATE TRACKER: Republican Todd Wilcox will be in West Palm Beach and Winter Park.

NATION’S LARGEST TEACHERS UNION ENDORSES SUSANNAH RANDOLPH FOR CONGRESS – The National Education Association (NEA) is endorsing Susannah Randolph for Florida’s 9th Congressional District. NEA is the largest teachers’ union in the nation and represents more than three million education professionals. “Susannah Randolph has been an incredible ally in the fight to protect public education. She believes in empowering educators in the classroom, strengthening our public school systems, and helping every student succeed,” said Florida Education Association (FEA) President Joanne McCall. “We know that Susannah will continue to champion these causes in Congress.”

REDISTRICTING PLAINTIFFS WANT CORRINE BROWN TO PAY FOR THEIR CONSULTANTS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The League of Women Voters of Florida, Common Cause and others already filed a motion for sanctions against the North Florida congresswoman for unsuccessfully challenging them in federal court. Court dockets show they’ve now added a “bill of costs” for the consultants they used, adding “expert witness fees” to their previous demand for an “award of attorneys’ fees,” now estimated at $220,000. Brown, however, is their second choice as a payor after the state itself. The plaintiffs lost a previous attempt at getting the state to pay its legal tab when the Florida Supreme Court turned them down. If the state won’t pay, they want a federal judge to “assess attorneys’ and expert fees against Congresswoman Brown because her (Voting Rights Act) and constitutional claims were frivolous, unreasonable or without foundation,” their motion says.

ADAM PUTNAM COMMITTEE RAISES $285K IN APRIL via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Florida Grown, the fundraising committee that likely will fuel Putnam‘s 2018 bid for governor, posted nearly $285,000 in contributions for April … includes a $20,000 check from Hoyt R. Barnett, vice president of Publix Super Markets Inc. The committee also raked in dozens of small contributions of $25, $50 and $100. They came at its annual “Friends of Florida Agriculture Barbecue” April 2 at Peace River Valley Ranch in Hardee County. Among those chipping in $25 was Marshall Criser III, chancellor of the State University System of Florida. He identified himself only as “educator.”

HAPPENING TODAY: Senate leadership is hosting a fundraiser for Dana Young’s campaign for Senate District 18. The event begins 11:30 a.m. the Governors Club Library, 202 South Adams St. in Tallahassee. More information and RSVP with Ieva Smidt at RSVP@FLFStrategies.com.

REGGIE FULLWOOD LOOKS TO DELAY FEDERAL TRIAL UNTIL AFTER AUGUST ELECTION via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics – Fullwood, indicted April 15 for four counts of failure to file federal tax returns and 10 counts of wire fraud, was set for a June trial. However, Fullwood’s counsel objected, saying the “interval allowed is insufficient to reasonably prepare for trial,” given “a brief but unavoidable delay in the production of discovery, a discovery which has “proved to be relatively voluminous.” The Jacksonville Democrat also anticipates filing motions to dismiss the 10 counts of wire fraud, and “at least one other count.” Fullwood “seeks a continuance of the currently scheduled trial date to or after the August 2016 trial term.”

HAPPENING TODAY: Republican state Rep. Jeanette Nunez is holding a fundraiser for her House District 119 re-election effort beginning 4 p.m. at the Bistro Mezzaluna, 1821 SW. 10th Ave. in Fort Lauderdale.

HAPPENING TODAYAlex Garcia, Director of Hispanic initiatives for the Republican Party of Florida, is a speech to the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee at 7 p.m., 2201 Feather Sound Dr., in Clearwater.

HAPPENING TODAY: The Polk County Democratic Executive Committee hosts a forum with congressional and state House candidates beginning 6:30 p.m. at the Democratic headquarters, 651 East Main St. in Haines City.

— “Four more years for Dave Aronberg as candidate qualifying deadline passes” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

— “Alan Clendenin to run for Hillsborough County school board” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

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FLORIDA SPENT NEARLY $6000 ON RADIO AD RIPPING CALIFORNIA via The Associated Press – Florida taxpayers wound up spending nearly $6,000 for a radio ad that criticized California’s decision to increase the minimum wage to $15 … a final figure on how much it cost to produce and run radio ads in San Francisco and Los Angeles … was $5,747. Florida aired the ads ahead of a three-day trade mission by Scott to California. The ads contended that a new law gradually raising the Golden State’s minimum wage would result in large job losses.

PAM BONDI ASKS COURT TO REVIEW GAMBLING INITIATIVE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Bondi sent a letter to the court … asking it to judge the initiative’s “validity.” The request, however, is pro forma. It’s required under law when an initiative garners enough signatures. As of Friday, the Voter Control of Gambling amendment had 73,810 valid signatures toward the requirement of 683,149 signatures. It’s aiming to get on the 2018 statewide ballot. The language would “ensure that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling,” the ballot summary says.

SPOTTED at a farewell party for outgoing Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCartyDavid Altmaier, Belinda Miller, Susanne Murphy, Caitlin Murray, Gary Guzzo, Jim Magill, Doug Bell, Jodie and Monte Stevens, Audrey Brown, Donovan Brown, Robert Reyes, Katie Webb.

GRAND JURY INDICTS CHARTER SCHOOL MANAGEMENT COMPANY via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – A charter school management company which has operated schools statewide was indicted by a Florida Panhandle grand jury, accused of fraudulently billing a charter school for supplies, equipment and services. The charges of grand theft, money laundering and aggravated white collar crime were announced by State Attorney Bill Eddins against the management company, Newpoint Education Partners, as well as three other vendors. No individuals have been charged so far, but the case could have ripple effects across the state … the company indicted in Escambia County had also been criticized for poor financial management of four schools in Pinellas County … the same company — which was acquired by a nonprofit company a few weeks ago — has been involved in schools in Broward and Bay counties. Assistant State Attorney Russell Edgar said the investigation is continuing, and prosecutors have sought information from other school districts where the companies were doing business. “This has not ended,” Edgar said.

AMID FBI PROBE, MIAMI SUBURB VERGES ON FINANCIAL COLLAPSE via The Associated Press – Amid an FBI corruption investigation, authorities say the Miami suburb of Opa-locka is teetering toward financial collapse. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez asked Gov. Scott in a letter this week to place the city of 16,000 people under state control … the letter warns that without state support Opa-locka’s government faces complete shutdown. State law allows the governor to step in when cities face financial emergencies, including a takeover of services. Opa-locka officials said at a meeting this week the city faces a $1.4 million shortfall plus millions in prior debts. The letter comes as the FBI continues investigating corruption allegations against Opa-locka’s mayor and several other top officials.

PERSONNEL NOTE: FLORIDIAN PARTNERS HIRES OIR INSURANCE EXPERT GEORGE FEIJOO via Florida Politics – After five years at the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, insurance expert George Feijoo is leaving for a role at government affairs firm Floridian Partners. Feijoo, a Florida State University graduate in Actuarial Science and an MBA, has the designation of Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU). During his stint at OIR, Feijoo worked at both the Property & Casualty Product Review and Life & Health Financial Oversight units. He also supervised approval of property and casualty contracts.  At Floridian Partners, Feijoo – who is bilingual in Spanish – will work with financial services clients on a broad range of services – life, health, auto, property and professional liability. He also offers vast experience in lobbying, legislative analysis and legal research.

SPOTTED in Louisville for the Kentucky Derby: Laura and David JollyBrady BenfordJeremy BranchSara and Joe ClementsJeff JohnstonMelissa and David Ramba, Jon Yapo.

ALSO SPOTTED at the Kentucky Derby:

sunburn - galvano

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Rep. Matt Gaetz, Capital City Consulting’s Jen Gaviria, Juan del CerroJeff HowellElizabeth Ray, and the great Ashley Walker. Celebrating today is Brett Gerdes.

FSU’S MARIO PENDER DISMISSED FROM TEAM AFTER ARREST via Safid Deen of the Tallahassee Democrat – Florida State running back Pender was arrested Saturday on two charges, including a third-degree felony, and dismissed from the football team. Pender, 23, was arrested by the Tallahassee Police Department for domestic battery by strangulation and resisting an officer without violence. His bond was set at $500. “Mario Pender has been permanently dismissed from the football team following his arrest earlier in the day,” the school said in a statement. “The Athletics Department will have no further comment at this time.” Pender’s playing status with the Seminoles has been in limbo since September after suffering a collapsed lung during a practice. He appeared in the first three games of 2015 before his season was over. He was also held out of spring practice in April.

INJURED VETERANS COMPETE IN INVICTUS GAMES AT DISNEY WORLD via Terrance Harris of The Associated Press – The Invictus Games, a creation of Great Britain’s Prince Harry, gives wounded and sick military personnel and veterans a chance to compete. Athletes from 15 countries will compete in 14 sports starting Monday and lasting until Thursday. The Opening Ceremony kicks off the games with Prince Harry and first lady Michelle Obama taking part. The United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands and Germany are among the countries participating in the Invictus Games. President Barack Obama and his wife put out a video challenging the other participating countries, and Prince Harry and Queen Elizabeth, as well as Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have issued their respective challenges via video. For the athletes it’s just an opportunity to compete, serve their country and to regain that sense of team they once enjoyed in their respective military branches. “What it means for me is to be a part of group again because in the military you have this very close bond,” said Kelly Gerristsen, who will represent the Netherlands in powerlifting, sitting volleyball and rowing this week. “When you are leaving the army you are never going to find it again. To be a competitor over here and to have the bonding again, it’s amazing.”

SEAWORLD LOSS WIDENS, BUT ADJUSTED RESULTS TOP EXPECTATIONS via Orlando Rising – SeaWorld’s first quarter loss widened as expenses climbed, but the theme park operator’s adjusted results and revenue beat Wall Street’s view. President and CEO Joel Manby said … that the company’s recently announced decision to end all orca breeding and transition its shows toward more natural orca encounters … should help improve its performance over time. For the three months ended March 31, SeaWorld lost $84 million, or $1 per share. A year earlier the Orlando, Florida-based company lost $43.6 million, or 51 cents per share. Total costs and expenses rose to $339.8 million from $264.8 million … revenue increased to $220.2 million from $214.6 million as attendance improved and people spent more on food and merchandise. Analysts expected $213 million, according to a Zacks poll. Attendance climbed to 3.3 million from 3.21 million in the quarter.

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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