Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – November 25

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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: A full-blown political, legal and international firestorm was ignited 15 years ago today, when a 5-year-old Cuban boy named Elián González was found clinging to an inner tube three miles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale. Fishermen rescued the little boy, whose mother was among a dozen Cubans who drowned on the trip seeking freedom in the United States. Although Elián’s Florida relatives fought to keep him here, his father insisted on his return to Cuba. The Clinton administration eventually backed the father’s claim, and Elián was forcibly extracted by federal agents armed with submachine guns – producing a stunning photo that quickly spread across the globe, long before social media was commonplace.

Now, on to the ‘burn…


Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton starts out 2016 as the favorite to win the Florida primary for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Gravis Marketing unveiled a new poll this past weekend showing Clinton claiming 51 percent of Florida Democrats. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., stands in distant second with 18 percent followed by Vice President Joe Biden with 12 percent. Two governors — Martin O’Malley of Maryland and Andrew Cuomo — lag far behind. O’Malley takes 4 percent and Cuomo 2 percent.

The poll of 694 Florida Democratic primary voters was from Nov. 20-21 and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.


Republican Rand Paul is showing early strength for a possible 2016 presidential bid in the first primary state, where a Bloomberg Politics/Saint Anselm New Hampshire Poll shows him running slightly ahead of more established names.

When 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney is removed from the mix, the Kentucky senator and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie share the top spot, with each drawing 16 percent support from likely Republican primary voters. Romney, who has repeatedly said he has no plans to run for president a third time, leads the potential pack with 30 percent when included. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush comes in third with 14 percent.

While Paul may be considered controversial among Republicans in Washington because of his ties to the party’s Tea Party wing, New Hampshire Republicans don’t see him that way. His favorable rating is the best of the potential 2016 Republican field, with 65 percent of likely primary voters viewing him positively and just 19 percent negatively. That’s on par with the state’s Republican senator, Kelly Ayotte.

By comparison, Christie is viewed favorably by just 50 percent of likely Republican primary voters, while a third view him unfavorably. The governor’s unfavorable rating was the highest of any of the 10 potential Republican candidates tested in the poll.

That trepidation reflects an open question about a potential Christie candidacy: Whether his brash style will be accepted in Iowa and New Hampshire. He made national news last month when he told a constituent who was critical of New Jersey’s response to mega-storm Sandy to “sit down and shut up.”


Former Gov. Jeb Bush will speak at next month’s winter graduation at the University of South Carolina in his second high-profile visit to the early presidential primary state in two months.

Bush will give the commencement address on Dec. 15.

Jeb Bush will be the third member of his family to address University of South Carolina graduates. His father, President George H.W. Bush, spoke while in office in May 1990, and his brother, George W. Bush, spoke during his presidency in May 2003.

Jeb Bush came to South Carolina in October to campaign for fellow Republican Gov. Nikki Haley. That was Bush’s first official trip to South Carolina since 2012. The state is critical in the 2016 presidential race because it is the first primary in the South.


Carlos Curbelo was elected to U.S. Congress earlier this month, but his campaign work is not over.

The Federal Election Commission has asked the Miami Republican to respond to a series of questions for omitting or mislabeling more than $93,000 in campaign contributions, which Curbelo has blamed on a computer software problem.

The federal agency issued Curbelo’s campaign two notices last week — one of them 11 pages long — that, if not answered adequately, could result in audits or fines.

Nicole Rapanos, Curbelo’s campaign manager, said Monday that the campaign plans to respond as early as this week with a complete accounting of contributions and donors omitted or mislabeled.

“Once we get everything answered, we should be OK,” she said. “We’re not trying to hide anything.”


Former state Rep. Reggie Fullwood received some help from the Florida Democratic Party this month, with $10,000 to help the Jacksonville Democrat win the special election to retake his House seat, according to new campaign-finance reports.

From Nov. 1-14, Fullwood raised $25,500, for an overall total of $51,400. Contributions included $10,000 from the state party on Nov. 10.

Fullwood faces a Dec. 16 primary challenge from Democrat Johnny Gaffney, a Jacksonville City Council member. During the same reporting period, Gaffney raised $2,950, for a total of $33,865. The primary winner takes on Republican Lawrence Jefferson in the special general election set for Feb. 17. Jefferson took in $50 during Nov. 1-17, giving him a total of $2,200 overall.

Fullwood was unopposed when he planned to run for another term in November, but a pair of paperwork errors prevented him for qualifying, forcing a special election.


Former state Rep. Reggie Fullwood invites friends and supporters for a campaign kickoff party this afternoon as he officially launches the race to retake House District 13.

The Jacksonville Democrat’s fundraiser begins 6:30 p.m. at his campaign headquarters at 1710 N. Main St. in Jacksonville. Food and drinks will be provided.


State Democrats should press control/alt/delete on 214 Bronough Street — Florida Democratic Party headquarters in Tallahassee — and clean out the halls of leadership. The experiment of anointing Charlie Crist, a life-long Republican, as the standard bearer for our party failed horribly.

Recently the FDP announced a new post-election task force chaired by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. His first order of business should be to overhaul the state party’s leadership.

Democrats soundly lost the Cabinet, lost six seats in the Florida House providing a super-majority for Republicans, while securing even more conservative policy-making for the next two years and untold long-term effects to the judiciary.

The scariest part is that Scott doubled his share of African-American voters from 2010, reaping 12 percent, up from 6 percent four years ago. Counter-intuitive, but still a fact. African Americans are the most loyal voting block in America. There is no other group of people in Florida that routinely votes by more than 90 percent for one political party. In an election that Scott won by 66,000 votes, exit polls indicate he received 61,000 more African-American votes than in his last election. Remarkable for a candidate who had no urban agenda, except for corporate scholarships for low-income students, an issue that’s overlooked by Democratic strategists who have been using the same African-American outreach strategy since the days of Martin Luther King.

The black church is way more sophisticated than the strategists can even begin to conceive. They haven’t figured out that the same churches they line up to visit before Election Day are also full-fledged social-service agencies serving the poor and providing education. Church buses used for Souls to the Polls on Sunday transport kids on Monday through Friday to and from the church’s day-care center (VPK vouchers) and their K-8 Christian school (tax-credit scholarship program vouchers).


The creators of Nametrix, a baby-name app, pulled data from the Federal Election Commission to find out which names are more likely to donate to Democrats, and which to Republicans. The most Republican names, suggesting that if you’re a political donor named Brent, Troy, or Darrell, you’re more likely to have given to Republicans. Meanwhile, Hannah, Alexandra, Ethan, and Sophia are more likely to give to Democrats:

Names can be a stand-in all kinds of things — gender, culture, religion, socioeconomic class, even whether your parents watch Game of Thrones. If you look at the full chart, the gender gap between Republicans and Democrats shows up right away — the more Republican names are predominantly male, while the Democratic side has many more women. While the data wasn’t broken down by age, the names that trend most strongly Democratic also tend to sound somewhat younger than the most Republican names: “Erica” and “Mia” versus “Duane,” “Virgil,” and “Rex.”

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FLORIDA ‘WARNING SHOT’ CASE ENDS IN PLEA DEAL via Derek Kinner of the Associated Press

A woman accused of firing a gun at her estranged husband and his two sons in what she said was self-defense took a plea deal in a case that first got attention because her attorneys used Florida’s “stand your ground” law in its defense, arguing that she feared for her life before discharging the weapon.

Marissa Alexander is charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for the 2010 shooting. Under the deal with prosecutors, she would receive credit for the 1,030 days she has already served. Alexander’s chief attorney, Bruce Zimet, said it was his client who agreed to the deal after it was offered.

Had the 34-year-old Alexander, of Jacksonville, been convicted of all counts at her second trial in the case – set to begin Dec. 1 – she would have had to serve 60 years because of Florida’s minimum-mandatory sentencing rules when a firearm is involved.

During her first trial, the jury deliberated just 12 minutes before delivering a guilty verdict. Under Florida law, anyone who fires a gun during the commission of a felony is subject to a minimum of 20 years in prison, which was her original sentence. After serving 21 months, Alexander’s conviction was overturned by an appeals court judge, who said the previous ruling had incorrectly placed the burden on Alexander to prove that she was abused by Gray.

At the first trial, her attorneys said the “stand your ground” law, best known in George Zimmerman’s fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, was applicable in Alexander’s case. The law says individuals have no duty to retreat from a place where they have a right to be and may use any level of force, including lethal, if they reasonably believe they face an imminent and immediate threat of serious bodily harm or death.

According to Alexander, her estranged husband, Rico Gray, accused her of having an affair and questioned whether their 9-day-old baby was his. She says she locked herself in the bathroom until he broke through the door and shoved her to the floor. She says she tried to escape through the garage but the door wouldn’t open. She retrieved a gun from a car, went back inside and says she fired a “warning shot” after Gray said he would kill her – an account backed by one of his sons. No one was injured.

The plea deal came soon after the judge in the case decided to allow evidence that Gray had abused women in the past.


The state Supreme Court has ordered a GOP political consultant embroiled in litigation over new political maps to show why a batch of sealed emails shouldn’t be immediately made public.

The emails to and from Pat Bainter, owner of the Data Targeting firm, were a key element of this summer’s redistricting trial, which focused on the congressional map.

The emails were leaked and first published by the Scripps/Tribune Capital Bureau, then by The Associated Press and other media outlets.

In light of that, the court is demanding that Bainter show by noon why they shouldn’t order the official release of the documents and Bainter’s sealed trial testimony by 3 p.m. today.

Voting-rights groups and others have argued that the GOP-led legislature “packed” Democratic-leaning minority voters into a handful of districts to make the surrounding seats more reliably Republican. By doing that, they said, it dilutes the minority vote and gives Republicans more safe seats.


Three million voters pass two constitutional amendments to make sure voting maps will never, ever be drawn to favor incumbents and political parties.

The Constitution had barely been updated when consultants and operatives began redrawing maps to — you guessed it — favor incumbents and political parties.

We know this because they left a goofy paper trail of emails and maps warning each other not to leave a paper trail of emails and maps.

On the bright side, it turns out our elected leaders are at least a little bit smarter. The actual lawmakers involved — those self-proclaimed champions of transparency — deleted their emails before the court could start looking for smoking guns.

The evidence we did get to see when it leaked this weekend is what prompted Circuit Judge Terry Lewis to say in July that party leaders had “made a mockery” of the redistricting process.

In other words, the constitutional amendments had been violated. Not only that, but the violators purposefully used subterfuge and may have lined up unwitting, or unknowing, accomplices to try to avoid detection.

So why were people adamant about these amendments in the first place? Well, it seems a bunch of kooky voters were tired of districts being drawn to guarantee outcomes in advance.


State regulators expect to decide whether to back proposals by Florida utilities to gut their energy efficiency goals by more than 90 percent and end programs that offered rebates for solar installations.

Ahead of the state Public Service Commission decision, environmental groups and solar backers warned during a conference call with the news media that a vote in favor the utilities’ proposals could push Florida further behind the majority of the nation for the next decade.

Earlier this month, PSC staff recommended that their bosses back the utilities’ proposals.

The state’s utilities — including Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric and Florida Power & Light — argued during hearings this summer that energy-efficiency and solar rebate programs have become too costly to continue. The utilities said it’s cheaper for them now to produce a kilowatt of electricity at their power plants than to save it.

At the same time, the utilities are proposing to build billions of dollars’ worth of new power plants.

In their recommendations, commission staff members agreed. The “utilities correctly calculated the costs and benefits to the customers participating in the energy savings and demand reduction measures,” the staff wrote.

In addition, the staff said the solar rebate programs should be allowed to expire in December 2015 because they “represent a large subsidy from the general body of ratepayers to a very small segment of each utility’s customers.”


Next year, patients across Florida suffering from extreme seizures and a handful of other symptoms should be able to get their hands on low-THC marijuana, but exactly when next year is unclear, reports Nick Evans of WFSU News.

An administrative court scrapped much of the proposed distribution framework earlier this month.  That leaves stakeholders with hope for a better system, and certainty of a longer wait.

Low-THC marijuana extracts have shown promise in helping epilepsy patients whose seizures don’t respond to traditional drugs.

Ft. Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz sponsored the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, a bill allowing epilepsy patients use low-THC marijuana extracts to treat their seizures.  The bill passed with broad bipartisan support.

But developing a system for cultivating, processing, and distributing the marijuana hasn’t gone quite so well.  The Legislature charged the Department of Health with constructing the framework, and from the outset its proposals have been met with stiff resistance.  Last week a judge threw out many of the Department’s proposed rules.  Speaking at a House organizational session, Gaetz acknowledged this setback.

But Florida Medical Cannabis Association lobbyist Ron Watson says the ruling leaves a lot of uncertainty.


For the next two years, Matt Hudson will be the second-in-command in the Florida House.

Hudson, a Naples Republican serving in his last term as a state representative, was elected the state House speaker pro tempore during an organizational legislative session on Tuesday. The appointment came about a month after state House Speaker Steve Crisafulli nominated him for the position.

Hudson said it was “a humbling moment” when Crisafulli called him to see if he would be the speaker pro-tempore.

First elected in 2007 in a special election, Hudson was re-elected this year after he ran unopposed. This is Hudson’s last term in the state House because of term limits. He has said he is considering a state Senate run in 2016.

Hudson said one of his top priorities for his new leadership position will be to help Crisafulli accomplish the chamber’s goals.

“This body is certainly impressive when you look out upon it. Not just because of the individual members, but because this body reflects Florida, this body reflects what our hopes and desires are for the state,” he said. “I can tell you I believe in Florida and I believe in the Florida brand.”

Hudson isn’t the only Southwest Florida lawmaker in a leadership position. Sen. Garrett Richter was tapped in 2012 by then-Senate President Don Gaetz, to be the Senate president pro tempore.


Last month, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners voted to include the LGBT community with other protected classes in connection with employment, public accommodations, real estate transactions and county contracting and procurement. The move was hailed by activists who have considered the county to be somewhat in the dark ages when it came to LGBT rights.

But in fact it’s still legal to discriminate against gays in Florida, something that Representative Holly Raschein and Democratic Whip Senator Joseph Abruzzo hope to change with legislation they filed today  in the Florida House and Senate respectively that would prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) in employment, housing and public accommodations.

They’re calling the bill the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA), and it would amend Chapter 760 of the Florida State Statutes that currently prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or marital status to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. The bill would add protections for more than 536,000 LGBT adults living in Florida.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, only twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have passed laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 18 states and D.C. also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

Last year Rep. Raschein served as the prime co-sponsor of the bill and helped to secure more than 10 GOP co-sponsors.

“All hardworking people—including those who are gay or transgender—should be treated fairly and equally by the laws of our state and should have the opportunity to earn a living to provide for themselves and their families. Nobody should have to live in fear of being fired for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance,” Raschein said in a statement.


After drawing substantial debate in the 2014 legislative session, a lawmaker is revisiting the issue of allowing public-school employees and volunteers to carry guns on campus.

State Rep. Greg Steube filed HB 19 this week, a new proposal for consideration in the 2015 session.

The Sarasota Republican’s bill allows school superintendents, with support of local school boards, to authorize a “school safety designee” to bring concealed weapons on school property. Designees can be honorably discharged military veterans, active-duty military, National Guard or reserves, active-duty or former law-enforcement officers. The designee must have a license to carry a concealed weapon, complete a school-safety course and pass background checks.

According to the proposal, the Legislature does not require schools to have designees but says the intent of the Legislature is “to prevent violent crimes from occurring on school grounds.” The goal of the bill is “safe keeping of our students, teachers and campuses.”

Although the House voted in April 2014 to support its version of the bill, the proposal failed to pass the Senate.

Florida should spend money on additional trained law-enforcement officers on campuses, as school resource officers, critics say, instead advancing the designee program.


Craft beer fans love capped jugs known as “growlers,” and they’re an efficient way to carry fresh beer home. But in Florida, half-gallon growlers are banned, even though it’s legal to fill jugs that are smaller and larger. Critics call the law “stupid” and now one bar owner is fighting the state of Florida in court, reports CBS News Vicente Arenas.

In craft beer bars across the country, the half-gallon jug, called a growler, has become a best seller.

But filling a growler is a sobering thought at the Crafted Keg in Stuart, Florida, where bar owner Guy Piasecki would be breaking the law if he sold you one.

In Florida, it’s illegal to sell beer in containers larger than 32 ounces or smaller than a gallon. The industry standard growler falls right in the middle. Florida is the only state in the country that bans it entirely and Piasecki said that confuses tourists.

“It’s not a rip off, it’s the state who’s just set up a stupid law,” Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Mark Miller said.

Mark Miller is Piasecki’s attorney. Together they’re suing the state of Florida, claiming the growler ban is unconstitutional.

The law has been on the books for half a century, but the craft beer industry has only recently exploded in Florida, growing from just six craft breweries in 2007 to at least a hundred today.

Last week, the state filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit arguing the sale of alcohol is not a right, it’s a “privilege,” adding the restriction is designed to help “…deter excessive drinking.”


This year’s relatively quiet Atlantic hurricane season is coming to an end.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that this season, which began June 1 and ends Sunday, matched forecasters’ predictions. The agency recorded a total of eight named storms, which had top winds of 39 mph or higher. Six of those became hurricanes, meaning top winds of 74 mph or higher.

Louis Uccellini, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service, said in a news release that much of the U.S. coastline was spared this year, with only one hurricane making landfall along the East Coast.

Gerry Bell, lead hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, says a combination of atmospheric conditions acted to suppress the Atlantic hurricane season.

***The Public Affairs Consultants Team of Jack Cory, Keyna Cory and Erin Daly guide their clients through the legislative, state agency and local government process. They do so by providing governmental consulting, lobbying and professionally coordinated grassroots programs for businesses, professionals, non-profits, local governments and associations. Recently named a Leading Association Lobbyist, They Cover Florida Like the Sun.***


The Rubin Group today announced the promotion of long-time consultant, Heather Turnbull, to executive vice president and partner and the addition of Chris Finkbeiner to the team as vice president.

Finkbeiner brings to the firm extensive experience serving in senior roles in the Executive Office of the Governor, the Florida Legislature and various Florida campaigns.

Finkbeiner most recently served as the policy director for Gov. Rick Scott’s successful re-election campaign, overseeing the development of the campaign’s policy initiatives and advising the campaign on a variety of issues. Prior to joining the campaign, Finkbeiner served as the deputy chief of staff and director of policy for the Executive Office of Gov. Scott, a role he began in 2011.   Previously, Finkbeiner served as the deputy chief of staff for the Florida Senate.  A graduate of the University of Florida, Finkbeiner is also a veteran of numerous campaigns throughout Florida.  He resides in Tallahassee with his wife, Brittany, and their son.

In addition to the hiring of Finkbeiner, Turnbull will now serve as executive vice president and partner.

Turnbull has been with The Rubin Group since 2003 and represents clients as a governmental consultant before local governments in South Florida, as well as the Florida Legislature, Executive Branch and the Cabinet.  Turnbull began her career in politics as a legislative assistant in the Florida House of Representatives and previously worked as a governmental consultant before the Florida Legislature for a former member of the U.S. Congress.

HEARING that veteran lobbyist Mike Hightower is joining Holland & Knight.


On Context Florida: It’s happened again: a sick person goes to a college campus, pulls out a gun, and starts firing. And again, says Diane Roberts, the ignorant or just plain vicious people who think the answer to gun violence is more guns squeal that if every Florida State University student, professor, groundskeeper, manager, lunchroom lady, electrician, janitor, ticket taker and rat-catcher packed heat, then everything would be grand. The U.S. Senate has a great deal of important business left before the end of the year, but Mark Ferrulo says that one of the most critical jobs is to give yes-or-no votes to President Obama’s judicial nominees pending on the Senate floor. Nobody thinks they’re a horrible host, says Catherine Durkin Robinson. That’s not true. Bad guests are awful, too. In an attempt to help, Robinson tells you what everyone else says behind your back and offers tips for being a good host and a good guest. Associated Industries of Florida President Tom Feeney notes that the information technology field in Florida and across the country has been expanding rapidly with innovative technologies and services hitting the market all the time. Unfortunately, Florida has not kept pace with changing IT policies and practices in the state government arena.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Jennifer Krell Davis, Jason Fischer, Adam Hasner, and my dear friend, Gary Springer.

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.