Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – November 19

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

Today’s Rise and Shine Fact-iversary is brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the public affairs firm known for unparalleled relationships and winning strategies: One of the most powerful speeches in recorded history was delivered 151 years ago today, when President Abraham Lincoln dedicated a military cemetery in Gettysburg, PA. In just 272 extraordinary words delivered in just over two minutes, Lincoln commended to the ages the men who gave their lives in defense of the Union during three days of bloody battles 4½ months earlier. Lincoln then concluded with a phrase for the ages, resolving that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Lincoln did get one thing wrong, however, predicting in the Address that “the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.” Seven score and eleven years have proven otherwise.

Now, on to the ‘burn…

DWS AT POLITICAL CROSSROADS via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the most-prominent Democrat in South Florida, is at a political crossroads.

She’s just won her sixth term in the U.S. House of Representatives with 63 percent of the vote. And she’s been chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee since 2011.

But she needs to decide where she wants her career to go next.

Wasserman Schultz’s immediate priority is shepherding the Democratic Party self-analysis she announced in the aftermath of the crushing defeats Democrats suffered in Florida and across the nation in this year’s midterm elections.

Navigating the fallout, and making sure she’s not the scapegoat for the election disaster, is critical. She wants the self-review completed by February.

At the same time, she needs to decide what she’ll do next.

Option one: Give up virtually certain re-election to her Weston-based congressional seat, which Democrats, Republicans and independent analysts say she has locked up for years, and make a bid for U.S. Senate, a big risk with an outcome that’s far from certain.

Option two: Remain in the House and focus on the inevitable competition to move up the ranks of the Democratic leadership when the current party bosses, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, retire.

Wasserman Schultz doesn’t want attention on either of those options, and sidestepped questions about the potential political paths ahead.


Despite a reported unanimous voice vote, Rep.-elect Gwen Graham says she did not support Nancy Pelosi for another term as Democratic leader. Graham has pledged during the campaign against Steve Southerland to oppose Pelosi, who became a central figure in TV ads in the race.

“We need new leadership in both parties to move forward, and that’s why I didn’t give my support to Nancy Pelosi today,” Graham told the Tampa Bay Times in a statement. “When the vote for leadership happens in January, I will support someone who I believe can bring people together to solve problems.”

If Graham opposed her, she didn’t speak up. As the Washington Post reported, quoting an aide, “There were ‘no nays audible in room.’ “We asked Graham’s team why she did not speak up. “She did,” replied via email Eric Jotkoff, an advisor. “It was just drowned out by the other people voting.”

Republicans jumped on the vote and said Graham had broken a campaign pledge. “So what happened to Gwen Graham bucking her own party? Typical say and do anything to get elected politician. Someone should ask Gwen why she went back on her word,” said the NRCC’s Katie Prill.

Graham is assembling her staff and has already settled on Julia Gill Woodward, her campaign manager, to be chief of staff.

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Gov. Rick Scott continued to round out his executive office staff for the launch of his second term with a handful of appointments.

Scott’s communications director, Frank Collins, will move up to a deputy chief-of-staff role, along with Kim McDougal, who is a former longtime Department of Education official who lately served as a policy advisor on the governor’s re-election campaign.

McDougal also will serve as Scott’s lobbyist with the Legislature. The governor’s political director on his campaign, Brad Piepenbrink, also will serve as a deputy chief-of-staff in the new administration.

Karl Rasmussen also was named a deputy chief after formerly serving as Scott’s director of Cabinet affairs. Jeff Woodburn, currently with the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation, will serve as the governor’s policy director.


When Gov. Scott won re-election Nov. 4, he triumphed over both his Democratic challenger and California billionaire Thomas Steyer, who spent $20 million painting him as a climate-change denier.

Scott, who during the campaign deflected questions about the topic by asserting that he isn’t a scientist, has little time to celebrate.

Environmental issues are washing onto his desk: Voters required lawmakers to devote about $1 billion annually to conservation; Florida must curb carbon emissions almost 40 percent under new federal rules; and rising seas are soaking Miami Beach even as Scott’s party blasts President Barack Obama’s deal last week with China setting emissions goals.

Scott’s predicament shows how Republican leaders from Alabama to Arizona are facing unwanted climate-change battles even as they question the effects of human activity on global temperatures. The governor must spend the money while placating members of his party and Mother Nature alike.

While most environmental groups endorsed Crist, they have pointed to voters’ 75 percent approval of the conservation referendum as the election’s only true mandate.

ANDY GARDINER WANTS “OPEN DIALOGUE” ON AMENDMENT 1 via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune 

Senate President Andy Gardiner spoke to reporters after the conclusion of the post-election organization session. Among other subjects, he was asked about the recent passage of Amendment 1, the state constitutional amendment that now requires a one-third set aside of documentary stamp revenue for conservation.

Documentary stamp revenue is derived from real estate sales.

Some Republicans had opposed its passage because money now will have to be diverted to fund the new conservation-spending requirement.

Gardiner’s comments are excerpted below:

“When we come back in January, we want to have open dialogue, public meetings, on exactly what Amendment 1 will mean. Not just (from) the advocates of it, but also others that can come in and say, ‘here’s the potential impact.’

“Again, the constitution is very clear now: 33 percent has to go in. But that 33 percent is coming from somewhere.”


A Republican consultant at the heart of Florida’s two-year redistricting fight asked the state Supreme Court to delay the release of hundreds of private emails and records while it appeals a decision to disclose the information.

Pat Bainter, who heads Gainesville-based Data Targeting, lost a fight last week before the high court over hundreds of emails, maps and other data related to its work for GOP lawmakers. The records were produced as part of a lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters and other groups who allege the Republican-run Legislature violated anti-gerrymandering rules when they redrew Florida’s congressional maps in 2012.

A trial judge last summer agreed and ordered lawmakers to redesign seven of the state’s 27 congressional districts, primarily those in Central Florida. The Legislature complied, but the voting-rights groups have continued to fight the maps in court. Bainter and Data Targeting have been resisting the public release of its records, which the League lawyers allege is part of their case.

Last week, the Florida Supreme Court rejected the arguments that releasing the records violated the company’s right to protect trade secrets.

The political operatives had also argued doing so would violate their First Amendment rights, but the court ruled that argument had been raised too late in the process. Bainter and his company would have been forced to release the records publicly this week, but plan to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Early next year, nearly 9,000 schools around the country are expected to take part in what organizers are calling the “largest celebration of educational opportunity in American history.”

Florida is expected to be the epicenter. National School Choice Week is announcing that it’s kicking off its national series of events with a rally of students, educators and school choice supporters at Jacksonville’s Florida Theater in January.

It’s a natural place to launch a celebration of educational options, said Andrew Campanella, the president of National School Choice Week. Florida is a state where nearly 1.5 million students choose their schools, and one in four public schools is either a charter or a magnet.

For the first time, the Jan. 23 kickoff event will be broadcast on national television. Satelite feeds will also connect the Jacksonville event to other celebrations around the country.

Campanella said Jacksonville was chosen in part because it’s been a strong base of support. Florida is home to some 1,200 of the nearly 8,500 schools already planning National School Choice Week events for next year, and more than 100 of them are in Jacksonville. Alvin Brown, Jacksonville’s mayor, was one of two from Florida’s major cities who issued proclamations supporting last year’s events.

Schools of all types — public and private, district and charter, online and bricks-and-mortar, as well as home education families — put on events during the week of celebration.


The total number of immigrants living in the United States illegally hasn’t changed much since 2009, but just where they live has.

A report from the Pew Research Center released Tuesday shows Florida saw the biggest increase in residents without legal immigration status.

Between 2009 and 2012, some 55,000 new immigrants in the country illegally came to the Sunshine State. That brings the total in Florida to an estimated 925,000. The increase in Florida highlights a broader shift from the West and Southwest.

Other states that saw sharp rises: Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico saw the biggest declines.

Florida’s agriculture, construction and hospitality industries have long attracted those in the country illegally. So too has South Florida’s thriving legal immigrant population.


The Florida Commission on Offender Review will have an opportunity to free a deaf man who advocates staunchly believe was wrongly convicted and has served 33 years in prison for a Tampa murder he did not commit.

Among those testifying in his defense is a paralegal named Pat Bliss, who has been working without pay for nearly two decades to seek justice and freedom for Felix Garcia. Bliss, a former board member of HEARD (Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf), is absolutely convinced he is innocent.

Attorney Reggie Garcia (no relation to Felix) and Gary Lieffers of the Florida Association of the Deaf also believe Felix was wrongfully convicted and his deafness played a critical role.

Felix received little assistance at his trial to help him hear the proceedings. Authorities gave him a hearing aid and turned up the volume in the courtroom, but that just sounded like incomprehensible noise to the deaf man and added to his confusion. He had no sign language interpreter.

Felix was convicted despite testimony from his then girlfriend and her mother that he was with them all evening and could not have been at the murder scene when the crime occurred.

“Felix was at his girlfriend’s mother’s home six miles away from 6:30 p.m. that night until 1:30 in the morning.” Reggie Garcia said. “So he had a 7-hour alibi before, during and after the murder.”

But the jury rejected the alibi and instead believed Felix’s brother and sister, who framed him for the murder. The brother, who’s also in prison for the crime, and sister have since admitted Felix was not involved.


Claudia Davant, Robert Beck, Tanya Jackson, Adams St. Advocates: Intuit, Inc.

Carole Green, Ashley Stacell, Capitol Strategies Consulting: Biovation Environmental Services, LLC

Kari Hicks, Daniel Rogers: Florida for Care

Geoffrey Smith, Susan Smith: Smith & Associates: Compassionate Care Hospice Group

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A coalition of groups in Florida are preparing to try to get a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot in Florida that would restore the voting rights of most individuals with past felony convictions upon completion of their sentence. These groups include the ACLU of Florida, the League of Women Voters, Faith in Florida and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. The proposed constitutional amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.

The state’s current policy regarding ex-felons was an issue that Charlie Crist occasionally discussed during the recent gubernatorial campaign. When he took office after being elected in 2007, the then Republican Governor was able to persuade a majority of the Florida Cabinet to change the policy to provide ex-offenders convicted of less serious offenses the right to regain their rights without a hearing, while those convicted of crimes such as murder required a more thorough investigation and a hearing. But that was repealed in 2011, when newly elected Attorney General Pam Bondi said that the process was too easy for released felons. Shortly after she made those comments, she and the rest of the Cabinet scrapped the process and set a minimum of a five-year waiting period.

“Individuals have to wait anywhere between 5-7 years, depending on the nature of the crime they commit, to apply to get their rights restored. And that’s after they’ve paid their fines and restitutions, and they have to wait an additional 2-5 years, so you’re talking 7-12 years before they’re able to get their rights restored,” says Joyce Hamilton Henry, director of advocacy for the ACLU of Florida. ”We are tired of that, because every four years we have to wait for these four individuals (in the Florida Cabinet) to make a decision” regarding the fate of ex-felons. She made those comments while addressing the Hillsborough County Executive Democratic Committee.


Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam endorsed former Rep. Travis Hutson over former Rep. Doc Renuart in the Jan. 27 Republican primary in the special election for the Florida Senate seat vacated by former Sen. John Thrasher.

“Travis Hutson is a committed conservative who is devoted to helping Northeast Florida thrive,” said Putnam. “I know he will work tirelessly to grow the Northeast Florida jobs base and improve the economy and education system. Travis Hutson is a true leader, and I am proud to support him.”

“Commissioner Putnam has not only dedicated himself to helping Florida’s agriculture industry, but our entire state, and I greatly appreciate his support for my campaign,” said Hutson. “I look forward to having the opportunity to continue to serve Northeast Florida, and I am humbled to have received the commissioner’s endorsement.”

DEMOCRAT FILES FOR SD 6 via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News

Teacher David Cox took 37.5 percent as the Democrat challenger against U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who won with 62.5 percent. But less than two weeks after the final votes were counted, Cox filed to run for the Florida Senate seat opened after Sen. John Thrasher resigned to take the helm at Florida State University.

Cox becomes the first Democrat to run for the seat.


The Florida House voted unanimously to reject the results in the recent election for Tampa’s District 64, creating a vacancy in the office.

That means that GOP state Rep. Jamie Grant will have to run for his seat again in a special election likely to be called by Gov. Rick Scott.

Grant has represented parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties since 2010. But the seat was in question since an appeals court invalidated the election after a prolonged court case involving a write-in candidate.

The case is under appeal with the Florida Supreme Court.

The House rejected the Nov. 4 results, in which Grant won by 59.5 percent of the vote, under its constitutional authority to be the “sole judge” of its membership.

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The educational nonprofit group that owns The Tampa Bay Times lost $3.5 million in 2013, as the organization brought in fewer donations.

The St. Petersburg-based Poynter Institute for Media Studies has lost money for the last several years, and is now looking to a potential deal to sell nearby land — and potentially its own building — to shore up its finances. After requesting several delays, Poynter accountants last week filed the group’s 2013 financial statements with the Internal Revenue Service, and the papers describe an organization facing increasing financial strain.

“We’re optimistic about the future,” Kim Tobin, marketing and communications strategy manager at Poynter, said in a statement. “Poynter has put in place a new strategic plan, and is making strides toward closing last year’s budget gap. It has secured training partnerships with major media companies like McClatchy, Scripps, CBS and Pioneer News Group and it’s in discussions for several others.”

Such new business would give a boost to Poynter’s bottom line.

In 2012, Poynter brought in $2.9 million in contributions and grants, and in 2013, that figure fell to $1.3 million. Total revenue fell from $5.9 million in 2012 to $3.8 million in 2013. Losses grew from $1.8 million in 2012 to $3.5 million in 2012.

A mid-career journalism training school, Poynter has directly owned the Times ever since the newspaper’s patriarch Nelson Poynter gave the paper to the school upon his death.

Total revenue from the Times’ various publications has fallen for the past five years, according to Poynter’s tax filings, from $274 million in 2009, to $159 million in 2010 — then remained at $151 million for both 2011 and 2012 — and then to $140 million in 2013. To help pay off previous debts, the Times in 2013 took on a new $28 million loan from Boston-based Crystal Financial LLC, a non-bank lender that describes itself as providing liquidity to companies that require “more debt capital than is currently made available from traditional lenders.”

That loan comes due in December 2016.

HOW DISNEY TURNED ‘FROZEN’ INTO A CASH COW via Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times Magazine

Behold the bewitching power of branding. In the year since Disney’s latest princess movie, “Frozen,” opened last November, Elsa and her sister, Anna, have rapidly become two of the world’s most successful product endorsers. Disney said earlier this month that it had already sold three million “Frozen” dresses in North America, which, as it happens, is roughly the number of 4-year-old girls in North America.

In January, “Frozen” wedding dresses go on sale for $1,200. Next summer, “Adventures by Disney” is offering tours of Norwegian sites that inspired the film’s animators at prices starting north of $5,000. The company is also rolling out “Frozen”-branded “apples and grapes, juice, yogurt, bandages and a complete oral-care line.” Disney estimates that “Frozen” brought in more than $1 billion in retail revenue over the last year. The chief executive, Robert A. Iger, told CNBC that he expected holiday sales to be “very, very hot.”

The creators of “Frozen,” Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, told me that they set out to create characters young girls would recognize. “I love Cinderella,” Lee says. “Am I anything like her? No. I grew up and became someone more independent.” Elsa and Anna, she says, “are princesses because they’ve got the weight of a kingdom on their shoulders, not as the solution to a happy ending.”

They realized they had succeeded, and then some, soon after the movie was released, when they went to see it like ordinary people. Lee found herself in a New York theater, where many audience members already knew the words. Then she started to hear people singing on the street. A year later, they haven’t stopped. Does she ever get tired of hearing “Let It Go”? No. Not really. Not yet. “When I’m old, it will be the only thing left in my brain,” she says.

Brands are said to be in decline. Studies show that customers are less loyal to companies, quicker to try something new. Products increasingly rise and fall on their own merits. “Brand names have become less important as proxies for quality,” says Itamar Simonson, a professor at Stanford University. He argues that consumers now get better information about products from the Internet. But Disney, perhaps more than any other large company, appears to be impervious to the trend. It helps that the company is not selling products based on the quality of craftsmanship, but based on the quality of its stories. Disney also specializes in selling affordable luxuries. An Elsa dress is considerably more expensive than an ordinary dress, like a cup of Starbucks coffee costs more than an ordinary cup of coffee. But it is not that expensive. Every item of the dozens of “Frozen” products at the Disney store cost less than $100. More important, though, to Disney’s success is that many of its best customers are still learning how to read and don’t care what things cost. It’s not as if toddlers check out Amazon reviews.

As a result, Disney is in the midst of a golden age of profitability. Disney characters have been endorsing products since 1929, when Walt Disney put Mickey Mouse on a writing tablet. But licensing, which began as a sideline, has become the main event. In most years, Disney makes more money from selling branded movie merchandise than from the actual movies. “We create products that extend the storytelling — the emotional connection that the consumer has when they’re seeing the film carries on in the three-dimensional world,” says Josh Silverman, the executive vice president for global licensing. A recent favorite, he says, is the Olaf snow-cone maker. Modeled after the slapstick snowman who provides the comic relief in “Frozen,” it emits frosty treats from a somewhat disturbing hole in Olaf’s belly.

UBER CONFIRMS SPOTIFY INTEGRATION via Natalie Jarvey of the Hollywood Reporter

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick  announced a partnership with Spotify that will allow Uber customers to play their music when they take a ride.

Beginning Friday, Nov. 21, Uber customers will be given the option of syncing their Spotify accounts. When they request a ride, they can then choose what music they want playing in their car through the Uber app.

“We’re trying to create highly evolved experiences,” Kalanick said during a press call. “This is the first time we’ve personalized the experience inside the car.”

Uber is rolling out the Spotify integration in 10 cities: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Nashville, Toronto, Mexico City, London, Stockholm, Sydney and Singapore. The service, which will eventually become available in all cities where Uber operates, is available for most Uber car options, with the exception of the new Uber Pool, and is available only for Spotify’s paid premium subscribers.

Uber drivers have to opt into the program for it to be available to customers. “We’re already getting great feedback from drivers, and they’re excited about providing this service for the riders,” Kalanick said.


Oxford Dictionaries picked “vape” — the act of smoking an e-cigarette — as their new word of the year on Tuesday, with the affectionate “bae” and the more pragmatic “contactless” as runners-up.

“Vaping has gone mainstream,” with usage doubling in 2014 compared to 2013, editorial director Judy Pearsall said.

The word, which was first used in the 1980s, can be employed as a verb to mean inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by electronic cigarettes but also as a noun to refer to the devices themselves.

It was added on Oxford in August and is being considered for inclusion in the official reference Oxford English Dictionary.

“Contactless” also made it on the list because of the growing use of cards with special chips to make payments in retail outlets and on public transport.

The Oxford Dictionaries editors defined “bae”, which is used by hip-hop artists and R’n’B stars, as “a term of endearment for one’s romantic partner”.

The list also had “normcore”, defined as “a trend in which ordinary, unfashionable clothing is worn as a deliberate fashion statement”, and “slacktivism” — “actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement.”


On Context Florida: If Americans cherish anything, says Stephen Goldstein, it is their constitutional protection to speak their minds. But however unqualified the framers of the Constitution may have meant it, freedom of speech in a civilized society has necessarily devolved into a gossamer of loopholes. Domestic violence is one of the most critical issues affecting Florida’s families and children, writes former Florida First Lady Columba Bush. Dominic M. Calabro and Bill Herrle point out one of the most alarming illustrations of government spending money it does not have is in local government pension plans. Simply put, Tallahassee’s mandates for local governments to provide “extra benefits” when they already can’t pay for required minimum benefits is unsustainable. Andrew Skerritt, citing one of the truisms we must live with, says that first impressions matter. Unfortunately, that’s a fact seemingly lost on new Florida State University President John Thrasher.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY early to our friend Anthony Pedicini. It takes two editions of Sunburn to give him his due.

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.