Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – August 7

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

By Peter Schorsch (; @SaintPetersBlog) with Phil Ammann (; @PhilAmmann) and Ryan Ray (; @RyanRay_Fla).


A combative Donald Trump jolted the first Republican debate of the 2016 campaign by warning he might run as an independent if denied the GOP nomination. His startling declaration left his onstage rivals scrambling to compete for attention the rest of the night.

Asked in the debate’s opening minutes whether he could rule out a third-party run, Trump declared Thursday night, “I will not make the pledge at this time.” He also refused to apologize for making crude comments about women, defended his changing policy positions and tangled with the debate moderators.

While Trump was characteristically bombastic, most of the contenders standing alongside him clamored for their piece of the spotlight without engaging him directly. They quarreled over immigration, terrorism and gay marriage, each casting himself as the strongest to take on Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton. They also assailed President Barack Obama and his nuclear deal with Iran.

The closest former Gov. Jeb Bush, a favorite of the party’s moderate, establishment wing, came to tangling with Trump was a gentle critique of the businessman’s over-the-top rhetoric.

“Mr. Trump’s language is divisive,” Bush said. “We’re not going to win by doing what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton do every day — dividing the country.”

On immigration, one of the main topics of the night, Bush defended his call for a path to legal status for some of the people living in the U.S. illegally, an unpopular position among some Republican voters who equate legal status with amnesty.

“The great majority of people coming here have no other option,” Bush said.

Trump in particular has pushed the issue of immigration throughout the summer, drawing criticism for saying Mexican immigrants are rapists. He said Thursday that he had been told that by border patrol agents, and he took credit for immigration being an issue in the campaign.

“If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration,” he said, despite the fact that immigration has been a hot-button issue in presidential campaigns for years.

Trump’s blunt style was in line with the approach he’s taken to his campaign throughout the summer, appealing to voters frustrated with career politicians and perplexing his rivals. He entered the first debate leading the polls in a field filled with governors and senators.


Here are five takeaways from Thursday’s debate.

Trump at center stage: Trump may be leading his fellow GOP presidential candidates in many of the national polls, but he was the only candidate on stage who refused – in the very first moment of the debate – to commit to running only as a Republican.

The reality TV star and real estate mogul said he would prefer to be the Republican Party’s nominee, but he wouldn’t promise to back any nominee other than himself. “I will not make the pledge at this time,” he said.

His answer drew an angry rebuke from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul: “Hey, look, look! He’s already hedging his bet on the Clintons, OK? So if he doesn’t run as a Republican, maybe he supports Clinton, or maybe he runs as an independent, but I’d say that he’s already hedging his bets because he’s used to buying politicians.”

That was one of the few moments when one of the other nine candidates on stage directly engaged with Trump. The closest anyone came later in the debate may have been former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who offered up a gentle critique.

“Mr. Trump’s language is divisive,” Bush said. “We’re not going to win by doing what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton do every day – dividing the country.”

Ready to rumble – Christie vs. Paul: There was no such gentleness between Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who have fought over government mass data collection in the past and traded perhaps the most pointed barbs of the night.

Christie said he’d attended funerals of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and slammed Paul’s efforts in the Senate to thwart renewal of government surveillance programs. “Listen, senator, you know, when you’re sitting in a subcommittee, just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that.”

Paul shot back, “I don’t trust President Obama with our records.” He continued, invoking an infamous interaction between Christie and Obama during the 2012 campaign: “I know you gave President Obama a big hug, and if you want to give him a big hug again, you go right ahead.”

Home field advantage for Kasich: It was a solid night for Kasich, who was the last candidate to make the cut for the debate as the 10th-ranked candidate in the average of national polls Fox News used to select the participants.

Kasich earned a rousing round of applause for his answer to a question about same-sex marriage. He said he opposes gay marriage, but when asked how he would explain that position to a child who announced he or she was gay or lesbian, he said: “I’m going to love my daughters no matter what they do. Because you know what? God gives me unconditional love, and I’m going to give it to my family and my friends and the people around me.”

The former congressman, who attended a same-sex union shortly after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling made gay marriage legal nationwide, said that “issues like that are planted to divide us.”

Rubio and Walker, calm and cool: Avoiding the debate’s testy back-and-forth were Rubio and Walker, who mostly stuck to giving answers to the questions posed.

After an incendiary answer from Trump about his widely condemned comments about immigrants from Mexico, Rubio displayed his command of the issue by telling the crowed at Quicken Loans Arena that immigrants who live in the U.S. illegally are from Central American nations such as Guatemala and El Salvador, and are overstaying their legally obtained visas – as opposed to sneaking over the border.

Rubio also earned some of the loudest applause of the night when he offered up one of his well-used zingers to mock Clinton. “Well, first let me say, I think God has blessed us. He’s blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates,” he said. “The Democrats can’t even find one.”

Walker, meanwhile, talked often of his record in Wisconsin. He said even when he drew over 100,000 protesters to the state Capitol, upset by his ultimately successful effort to strip away the union rights of most public employees, he was “trying to do the right thing” and acted in an upright manner.

He said he is “not a perfect man,” but he has tried to act with respect.

“What God calls us to do is follow his will,” he said. “And, ultimately, that’s what I’m going to try to do. And I hope people have seen that in my state.”

Hillary who? Amid all the fireworks, there was little to no chatter during the GOP debate about an issue which Republicans have obsessed for months: Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state and the deadly 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

It was left to Walker to first mention Clinton’s email habits when answering Russia’s threat to U.S. allies in NATO, and that came with just 20 minutes left in the debate. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was first to mention the Benghazi attacks, during his answer to the next question – but it was only as an aside.


Bush denied saying those nasty things about rump.

During Thursday night’s GOP primary debate, moderator Megyn Kelly asked the former governor of Florida about name-calling his fellow candidates, mentioning a POLITICO magazine story that reported Bush had called Trump a “buffoon,” “clown” and “asshole” to a party donor.

“None of which is true,” Bush said.


— “Jeb Bush accidentally leaks his debate attack plan” via Eli Stokols of POLITICO

— “Here are some of the tough questions Megyn Kelly asked at the debate” via Tessa Berenson of TIME Magazine

— “Donald Trump says he gave most of his debate opponents campaign money. He didn’t.” via Philip Bump of the Washington Post


— @MarcACaputo: In case any1 was wondering: Marco Rubio folks are not happy his former pal/roomie @ oft-investigated former Rep David Rivera is in Cleveland.

— @Amy_Hollyfield: Can’t help but wonder if @FLGovScott wishes he were on this stage. Elected same year as @ScottWalker @JohnKasich

— @DebbieMayfield: His opening remarks is why @MarcoRubio will be our next president

— @MarcACaputo: Christie-Paul exchange is gonna be a fav of reporters’ stories & video clips tomorrow. Probably 4th or 5th graf

— @SaintPetersBlog: .@marcorubio name-drops @CharlieCrist. @TroyKinsey creaming himself. Everyone else … #Drink!

— @NewBallPark: Was Saul Alinsky on your #GOPDebate Bingo card? Mark it.

— @JohnWoodrowCox: Would not enjoy *trying* to write a deadliner on this debate. Feel for you courageous political reporters facing that task.

— @JeremySWallace: Not fair that this debate comes way before new season of Saturday Night Live. Does Bobby Moynihan get Trump or Christie?

— @MarcACaputo: The question Megyn Kelly just asked Jeb about Bloomberg & abortion was shopped to me today by an opposing Republican

— @BallardFirm: Trumps best moment. Kind to Jeb but strong on way he says what he says.

— @ChuckTodd: Jeb arguably just got Trump to acknowledge that Bush’s criticism was legitimate on tone. Important moment for Bush

— @MearKat00: So.many.deleted.draft.tweets

— @AllisonNielsen: .@RandPaul how are you answering questions and tweeting ATST?

— @Daniel_Sweeney: Are you kidding me, man? Are you f’ing kidding me? Are you really wasting debate time on whether politicians talk to Jesus?

— @theGrio: Jeb Bush chilled. Trump was Trump. Dr. Ben Carson tried. John Kasich said something appropriate about gay folks. That’s about it.

— @LearyReports: .@marcorubio will be pleased with performance. Looks poised and got in his points, even if hasn’t gotten lot of attention.

— @SBustosAP: Rubio’s family story, told again and again, does not get old. Powerful narrative.

— @NYTimes: Donald Trump led in airtime, speaking more than double the amount of time as some others


Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “During both debates today, we saw more of the out of date and out of touch policies that we’re used to seeing from these Republican candidates. Among the biggest losers of tonight’s debate were American women, who were attacked at every turn. We failed to hear any solutions for income inequality, and not even a mention of college affordability, equal pay, raising the minimum wage, or the Voting Rights Act on its fiftieth anniversary.

“Today’s Republican presidential candidates proved that the GOP is solely focused on taking us backwards with policies that cut taxes for the wealthy and leave the middle class behind.

“Tonight, Americans are going to ask themselves, which one of the candidates on that stage will look out for me? The answer is clear: not a single one of them.”


Trump – Unquestioned star of the show. Set the tone for the raucous two-hour debate by declining to pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee if he’s not the pick. Provided few concrete answers to the policy questions posed during the debate.

Bush – Used his time to try to introduce himself and his record in Florida to a nationwide audience. Turned boos about his immigration position, which would offer those in the country illegally a path to legal status, into cheers by shifting focus to economic growth.

Walker – A quiet figure early, stood out late while discussing his faith and talking tough on policy toward Iran and the Islamic State. Won applause by jabbing at Clinton, saying Russia and China “know more about Hillary Clinton’s email server than do the members of the United States Congress.”

Huckabee – Held firm on the party’s right flank, especially on social issues. His call for recognizing unborn fetuses as persons with full rights ignited applause from the audience.

Carson – Used humor to make his mark, quipping at one point that he wasn’t sure whether he was going to get to talk again. Conceded his lack of foreign policy credentials, but appealed for the votes of those eager to get new voices in the political arena.

Cruz – Sharp on illegal immigration. Took on his own party’s leadership, slamming the “Washington cartel” that supports “amnesty” for those living in the U.S. illegally. But the accomplished college debater lacked a breakout moment.

Rubio – Energetic and confident. Rejected idea the campaign is a “resume competition.” Aggressively pushed idea the GOP nominee must be focused on the future, using his standard line that the “the economy we live in today is dramatically different from the one we had five years ago.”

Paul – An aggressor from the start. He was the first candidate to take on Trump after the real estate mogul raised the prospect of a third-party candidacy. His fiery exchange with Chris Christie over government surveillance programs will resonate well with his libertarian supporters.

Christie – Aggressive, but kept his notoriously hot temper in check. He picked his spots, including a robust defense of New Jersey’s economy. Showed flickers of why he was heavily courted by Republicans for a run in 2012.

Katich – Buoyed by a home-state crowd. Lifted his national profile by selling an optimistic vision for the country. Defended decision to expand Medicaid in Ohio and earned a rousing round of applause of saying that while he opposes gay marriage, he would support his children if they were gay.


Before the first Republican debate of the 2016 campaign for president, there was the undercard: a match-up of seven GOP candidates who didn’t have the poll numbers to make the main event.

It was a chance for the four current and former governors, a sitting senator from a crucial early-voting state, a former senator and the GOP’s only female White House candidate to try for the sort of hit-it-out-of-the-park performance that could vault them back into the top-tier of candidates.

Here are five takeaways from Thursday’s pre-debate debate.

Playing nice: Instead of going after one another, the candidates in the pre-debate event focused on who wasn’t there: Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and, of course, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Trump, the billionaire real estate developer and former star of reality TV, took shots early from former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. They both questioned his conservative credentials, pointing to his past support for universal health care and abortion rights.

“He is the party’s frontrunner right now, and good for him,” Fiorina said, adding later: “Since he has changed his mind on amnesty, on health care and on abortion, I would just ask, what are the principles by which he will govern?”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal went after Bush by name, rejecting the idea that — as the former Florida governor has suggested — Republicans need to be willing to lose in the primary to win the general election. “Let me translate that for you,” Jindal said. “That’s the establishment telling us to hide our conservative principles to get the left and the media to like us. That never works.”

As for Clinton, the former secretary of state and Democratic frontrunner?

Said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham: “To the people who are dying for a better America, you better change course, and she doesn’t represent the change that we need.”

No oops moments for Rick Perry: Perry entered the forum with more to prove than anyone. He just missed making the main event, denying him the chance to show a primetime audience how far he has come since his disappointing 2012 campaign. That first run for the White House more or less ended for Perry when he couldn’t remember during a primary debate the name of the third federal agency he wanted to eliminate, saying only: “oops.”

Perry got the first question on Thursday night and didn’t make any gaffes during the hour-long forum. He appeared confident and well-rehearsed, especially on the issue of immigration, and repeatedly talked about his record as governor of Texas — the nation’s biggest red state.

“This is going to be a show-me, don’t-tell-me election,” Perry said, adding: “And I think that the record of the governor of the last 14 years of the 12th largest economy in the world is just the medicine America is looking for.”

Carly Fiorina makes her mark: Fiorina, the former chief at Hewlett-Packard, didn’t have the poll numbers to make the main event, but they could rise after her performance Thursday.

Fiorina painted herself as an outsider prepared to take on the status quo and delivered some of the night’s most pointed barbs against Trump, Bush and Clinton.

“Hillary Clinton lies about Benghazi. She lies about emails,” she declared in her closing statement, adding that, “We need a nominee who is going to throw every punch, not pull punches.”

Along with potentially convincing a fair number of viewers that she’s the candidate to do it, she also won over one of her on-stage rivals.

“I will tell you one thing,” Perry said of the recently concluded talks with Iran over the Islamic nation’s nuclear program, “I would a whole lot rather had Carly Fiorina over there doing our negotiation than John Kerry.”

Lindsey Graham: Why so sad: Graham is known for his deep foreign policy knowledge, but also his biting sense of humor and happy-go-lucky approach to his work in the Senate and time on the campaign trail.

That Graham was missing on Thursday.

Instead, South Carolina’s senior senator was consistently low-key — lacking the energy of Perry’s performance and Fiorina’s commanding stage presence. In one particularly downbeat moment, he responded to a question about how he would inspire the nation with a story of family loss.

“When I was 21, my mom died. When I was 22, my dad died. We owned a liquor store, restaurant, bar and we lived in the back,” Graham said. He added, “Today, I’m 60. I’m not married. I don’t have any kids.”

It’s a story Graham tells often, usually with warmth that endears him to his audience. But without a large crowd at Quicken Loans Arena to play to, it didn’t have that kind of effect on this night.

Reaching for relevance: For several of the contenders, who are barely registering in early national polls, the debate was a chance to stake a claim for relevance in the crowded GOP field.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2012, tried to do it by calling for strict new limits on legal immigration.

As part of his “pro-worker immigration plan,” he called for reducing the level of legal immigration by 25 percent, claiming that “almost all” the legal immigrants who have entered the country over the last 20 years “are unskilled workers, flattening wages, creating horrible lack of opportunities for unskilled workers.”

None of the others on stage, including New York Gov. George Pataki and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, had the sort of stand-out moment viewers — and voters — are likely to remember.

Top of form: Most of the remaining candidates received only a smattering of applause, though one source confirmed that not a single donor clapped for South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham or former New York Gov. George Pataki. Luntz even made a joke about how quiet the room was.

SPOTTED: Florida GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia and Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano with the Trump family here.

SPOTTED in Cleveland: Former House Speakers John Thrasher and Will Weatherford, state Reps. Bryan Avila, Bob Cortes, Jay Trumbull. Also Carol Jean Jordan, Peter Feaman, Brad Herold, Randy Enwright, Rich Heffley, Jim Rimes.


While everyone’s focused on tonight’s Fox debates, we’re already looking forward to next month’s CNN/Reagan Library telecasts. Those will follow a similar format – two separate panels, based on the candidates’ standing in national polls. One key difference, however: CNN won’t just use the most recent polls before the Sept. 16 debate. They are going to use all polls going back to mid-July.


The polls get most of the attention … The better guide to who’s really winning is known as the “invisible primary,” in which candidates compete for support from their fellow politicians, from party leaders and from donors.

The candidate who wins the invisible primary usually wins the nomination. Even when he doesn’t, the eventual nominee tends to be a candidate who was a close runner-up. Why? The support of party leaders is both a sign of a candidate’s long-term strength and a source of future strength.

As for the polls, they’re not irrelevant, even at this early stage. But the national polls matter less than the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, the two first states to vote and the states where voters are paying more attention to the candidates. … For all that you may read about TrumpBush now leads the campaign, with the most endorsements and money, as well as top-three showings in the polls — which is reflected in the prediction markets, a kind of synthesis of the other data. But it is not a dominant lead, in part because of how few endorsements any candidate has yet received. After … Bush is  Walker, who leads the Iowa polls.

National polls are of dubious value at this stage, because most voters aren’t focusing on the race. But likely caucus goers in Iowa are paying more attention, as the candidates descend on their state. Scott Walker’s strength in Iowa, which has now lasted for months, is one of the best signs for his candidacy.


Walker won a surprising nod in an informal straw poll of major conservative donors gathered by the Koch brothers’ operation last weekend in Orange County, California … pollster Frank Luntz asked donors to clap to indicate their choice for the Republican Party’s nomination … sources say it was clear that Walker got the most applause, followed by Bush and Rubio, who received roughly the same amount of applause. The next most applause was for Fiorina.


Clinton has very noticeably and intensely trained her sights on a single rival candidate for president: Bush … she lambasted Bush … as he waited in the wings at a National Urban League conference in Miami, twisting his campaign slogan into a critique of his stands on the Affordable Care Act and raising the minimum wage. (I)n Denver, she called him “out of touch” for questioning, earlier that day, how much government should spend on women’s health — a quick insert into a speech in which Clinton had already planned to hit Bush on immigration.

Clinton has not picked on Bush at random: Her aides, for the most part, believe he is likely to ultimately win the Republican nomination. And in a very crowded Republican field, in which Trump is sopping up the news media’s attention, Bush has for the most part escaped the kind of sharp elbows that would normally have been thrown at such a high-profile candidate … Clinton seems happy to pick up the slack.

DEMOCRATS PLAN 2016 PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE IN MIAMI via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

On the day of the GOP’s first 2016 presidential debate, the Democratic Party revealed the schedule for six debates of its own — including one next year in Miami. Spanish-language television giant Univision plans to co-host the Miami debate with The Washington Post sometime in February or March, according to the Democratic National Committee.

Here’s the debate list:October 13 – CNN – Nevada; November 14 – CBS/KCCI/Des Moines Register – Des Moines, IA; December 19 – ABC/WMUR – Manchester, NH; January 17 – NBC/Congressional Black Caucus Institute – Charleston, SC; February or March – Univision/Washington Post – Miami; and February or March – PBS – Wisconsin.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Bush will be at a town hall in New Hampshire. Rubio will be in Atlanta for RedState.

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The Florida Legislature released its base map heading into next week’s Special Session … changes to 22 of the 27 districts … many folks … will find themselves in new congressional districts. Even those who remain in the same district will likely see the nature of their district change. The partisan effects on these districts slightly benefits Democrats. Gwen Graham’s district gets carved apart and CD 2 becomes very Republican, netting the GOP a seat. However, District 13 and 10, held by (David) Jolly and (Daniel) Webster, become very Democratic and are likely pickups for Team Blue. This results in a net gain of one district for Democrats.

Overall, the fluctuation is never more than a few tenths of a percent … Democrats improve their showings in CD 7 (John Mica) and CD 27 (Ileana Ros-Lehtinen) while losing votes in CD 14 (Kathy Castor) and CD 9 (Alan Grayson) … the delegation remains in GOP control.

District 1 … Jeff Miller’s solidly-Republican district was one of just a handful to see zero changes. District 2 undergoes massive changes … Graham resides in this district but has little chance of winning it if she runs. District 3 … Ted Yoho’s district undergoes massive changes. Yoho loses many of the rural counties that propelled him to his primary upset in 2012.

District 4 … Ander Crenshaw’s district loses Baker and part of Duval to the new 5th district and takes in northern St. Johns to balance the population. The district should remain safe for Crenshaw and any Republican. District 5 … The Legislature followed the court order by drawing Corrine Brown’s 5th Congressional District east-west … from Duval, takes Baker, Hamilton, Madison, northern Jefferson, half of Leon, and Gadsden … the district loses everything south of Duval.

District 6 … undergoes several changes … loses northern St. Johns to CD 4 and the bit of Putnam it had to CD 3. The district then takes in parts of Marion and Volusia to balance the population. District 7 … undertakes some very surprising changes … loses southern Volusia … losing Deltona … parts of Orange that it takes in that are surprising. District 8 had no changes and should remain safe for Bill Posey.

District 9 … There is no way around this.  There are many problems with District 9. The district, being vacated by Alan Grayson, loses many of its Hispanic voters … The district becomes less Democratic … Grayson would not be able to hold the seat in a midterm.

District 10 … If one Republican congressperson was going to be sacrificed … it would be Webster. The district takes in the African-American voters of CD5 and many Hispanics of CD 9. Meanwhile, it loses Republican-friendly Lake. The district becomes heavily Democratic … District 11 … undergoes some changes as it loses Ocala to CD 3 and picks up parts of Lake from CD10. The district remains reliably Republican. District 12 also undergoes some slight changes, taking in parts of Pinellas from CD 13 and evens out the population by losing parts of Hillsborough.

District 13 … David Jolly saw the writing on the wall after the Supreme Court’s redistricting decision.  With CD 13 being forced to take in African-American St. Petersburg, there was little chance the district wouldn’t become much more Democratic … With Charlie Crist publicly expressing a desire to run for the seat, the district is a likely Democratic pickup.

District 14 sees changes as it loses the African-American parts of Pinellas and gains many communities in the North. The district almost makes Tampa completely whole. However, the boundaries may run into problems on racial grounds. … District 14 remains Democratic, albeit less so than before.

District 15 undergoes some major changes. First it takes in the part of Lake taken from Webster’s district, then it takes parts of Hillsborough around the Brandon areas, gives up the Northern Tampa area, and loses parts of Polk … The new district is still modestly Republican. However, Ross will have many new voters. However, he should be fine for re-election …

District 16 … undergoing a surprise change as it loses Southern Sarasota and takes in parts of Hillsborough. District 17 … safe Republican seat doesn’t get any more competitive. However, some of the changes to the district are questionable.

District 18, based out of St. Lucie, Martin, and Northern Palm Beach, has no proposed changes. District 19 … also sees no changes. District 20 … undergoes very minor changes.

District 21 … Supreme Court ordered Districts 21 and 22, Democratic seats held by Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel … be redrawn in a more compact manner … prospect of both members ending up in the same seat was high. The seat retains a great deal of Deutch’s current district, loses the parts that were in Broward, and takes in the northern half of Frankel’s 22nd district.

District 22 … ends up based much more out of Broward, taking in the Broward areas Deutch represents now and taking in white areas surrounding CD 20. District 23 … Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s district is undergoing minor changes. District 24 … No changes were made to this heavily Democratic, majority-African-American district.

District 25 took in the eastern half of Hendry while losing a few precincts in Pembroke Pines to even the population out. District 26 … The removal of the African-American precincts makes the district more Republican than it currently is. District 27 … changes to district 27 are already highlighted in district 26. Thanks to taking in the heavily African-American areas north of Homestead, the district becomes more Democratic. However, U.S. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen remains safe due to her personal appeal.


Brown went to court … to stop Florida lawmakers from redrawing her congressional district, saying their efforts will deny African-Americans political representation.

Brown and other black leaders in central Florida filed to intervene in an already existing lawsuit that challenged the current shape of her district on the grounds that it created “racial packing” by unnecessarily putting a large number of African American voters together in a district.

Brown claimed any changes to her district would violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits the denial of voting rights based on race. She added state lawmakers as defendants to her request since they are returning to the Capitol next week to redraw the congressional districts after the Florida Supreme Court threw out the current map, saying it had been tainted by partisan influence.


Buchanan came out strongly … against a proposal to cut half of Sarasota County out of his congressional district … the proposed new district lines “would weaken the county’s ability to speak with a unified voice on federal policies.”

District 16 would pick up the southern portion of Hillsborough County. The southern portion of Sarasota County would then be added to District 17, which covers a vast swath of inland Florida and is represented by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney … The change likely would not affect Buchanan’s political fortunes. District 16 would still be solidly Republican … But it could dilute Sarasota County’s political clout and seems contrary to the Supreme Court’s efforts to enforce a pair of constitutional amendments that set out guidelines for drawing district boundaries …


“I’m very excited and happy that they’re much better maps in terms of, whoever gets to serve and represent Pinellas County is going to be representing most of Pinellas County and I think that’s a benefit to the people of Pinellas County,” said state Rep. Dwight Dudley, who lives in St. Petersburg … Dudley had been waiting to see what the district boundaries would look like before jumping into the race, but said if former governor Charlie Crist indeed runs (he said he would if the new lines include his home, and has since recently purchased two homes in the district), he’d stay out.

“It sounds as if Charlie Crist is very sincere about running, and I think with his commitment in buying two homes recently that that sort of punctuates what he’s going to do, and I would not consider trying to run in a race where Charlie Crist is …”

Dudley said the possibility of Baker running shouldn’t be a deterrent for someone like Crist. “I think Charlie will do just fine,” he said.


U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney … is endorsing fellow Rep. Ron DeSantis … in the crowded Republican primary.

 “My highest priority as a member of Congress is national security,” said Rooney … “As a former Navy officer, I know Ron shares my conviction that providing for our common defense and taking care of veterans when they come home is of utmost importance.”

Rooney is well-regarded among Republicans and is a scion of the family that owns the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Palm Beach Kennel Club. He’s a potential 2018 Senate candidate when Sen. Bill Nelson‘s current term ends.

— “Map for congressional districts show promise and a realization of citizen’s needs” via Kartik Krishnaiyer of the Florida Squeeze

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Panama City surgeon Neal Dunn will announce his campaign for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District at 10 a.m. CDT at the Bay County Chamber of Commerce Boardroom, 235 West 5th Street in Panama City.


Consumers for Smart Solar — the bipartisan coalition of business and civic leaders— received three significant endorsements in its campaign to put a solar energy amendment on Florida’s 2016 ballot … the Florida Council for Safe CommunitiesNational Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) and the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) each threw support behind the Smart Solar Amendmentwhich supporters say is a consumer-friendly measure to expand solar energy use in the Sunshine State.

The endorsements came after a recent Mason-Dixon poll showing 66 percent of Floridians favor the Smart Solar Amendment, a proposal for the ballot developed in answer to a competing initiative put forth by Floridians for Solar Choice.

In their opposition to the Solar Choice initiative — which opponents call “Shady” — each group voiced concerns that the proposal is backed by corporations looking to monopolize the production of solar energy.

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President Barack Obama says the plan he announced … to reduce climate change is “the biggest, most important step we have ever taken” to deal with the issue.

(A) new survey in Florida and seven other presidential battleground states done for the group United for Change shows strong support for Obama’s proposal.  The poll shows that 66 percent of those Floridians surveyed support the plan, with just 31 percent opposed. Not only is it winning in the Sunshine State among Democrats and independents … Republicans in Florida narrowly support it as well, by a 50-49 percent margin.

Jeb Bush calls the plan “overreaching” and “irresponsible,” while Marco Rubio accused the president of playing class warfare with the plan.

… Democrats supporting the proposal, 81-16 percent. Independents support it by a 58-40 percent margin. Republicans reject it, but only by a 44-53 percent breakdown.


A new email from the Florida Retail Federation reminds everyone that the 2015 sales tax holiday begins today through 11:59 p.m. Aug. 16. The 10-day extension is the longest back-to-school shopping holiday since the practice began in 1998, giving consumers two full weekends to shop for necessary school supplies, clothing and other needs.

Tax-free items during the holiday include clothing, footwear, wallets and bags priced up to $100 per item, school supplies priced $15 or less, and the first $750 of a personal computer or related accessories.

According to the Monthly Consumer Survey from the National Retail Federation, 29 percent of households with school-age kids nationwide are planning to spend more than last year on back-to-school items, up from nearly 24 percent saying the same thing last year.

For those going to college, nearly three in 10 students and families plan to spend more this summer, up from 23 percent last year.


Forecasters are even more confident that this Atlantic hurricane season will be a breeze … But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration still warns coastal residents to be vigilant as the six-month season hits its peak.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center … gave its forecast calling for a below-normal hurricane season a 90 percent degree of accuracy. It’s the highest probability for a below-average season since NOAA began issuing seasonal forecasts in 1998. Forecasters say El Nino has strengthened as predicted, while atmospheric conditions and cool ocean temperatures across the tropics aren’t good for storm development.

NOAA expects six to 10 named storms, with one to four strengthening into hurricanes with top sustained winds of at least 74 mph.


Florida’s highway safety executive director says her agency is working through issues with the new written driver’s license exam as it tries to improve failure rates … Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles officials are studying results and looking to get rid of bad questions …

The state shifted to a new 50-question exam in January. Statewide, almost three out of every five people who took the exam through June didn’t pass. The 41 percent pass rate is far below the state’s typical rate. The agency strives for a 70 percent pass rate … the agency is printing a new driver’s license handbook, developing a teen study guide and increasing education efforts with schools and tax collectors offices where many of the tests are taken … the goal is to better prepare teens to take the test.

(T)he new test better gauges a young driver’s ability to operate a vehicle than the state’s previous test, which she said was more of a memory exercise.

ACTUAL PRESS RELEASE via Ag. Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office: “The Dogs that Protect Florida’s $120 Billion Agriculture Industry”

FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE DAY via Sen. Jeff Clemens: So the meeting with the President in the Roosevelt Room got canceled. … Instead, he invited five of us into the Oval Office to talk voting rights. … All in all, it was a great day of meeting civil rights pioneers like John Lewis and Loretta Lynch. Glad to represent the good people of Palm Beach County. … Also, the President announced that September 22 will now be National Voter Registration Day. … As he said to us: “Citizens, seize the power that you have.”

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SAVE THE DATE: State Rep. Dennis Baxley is celebrating his 63rd birthday with a fundraiser supporting his bid for Senate District 5. The Birthday Bash is Saturday, August 22 beginning 5:00 p.m. at La Casa De Leon, 17819 Westbay Court in Winter Garden. RSVP at Lorri Silvera at


DraftKings Inc.FanDuel Inc., and the Fantasy Sports Trade Association have retained Ballard Partners to represent them before the Florida Legislature and the executive branch. DraftKings, based out of Boston, and FanDuel, operating from New York, are the largest single-day fantasy sports websites.

The websites work like this: instead of selecting players for an entire season like traditional fantasy sports, DFS matches require a person to pick a lineup for a single night (or week as in the case of pro football), while staying under a salary cap. Participants can play one-on-one battles with their friends for free or a set fee, or join a one-day league with the winner taking all.

Just as when FanDuel become a part of the Internet Association — a trade group currently inhabited by technology firms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter — it’s expected that the hiring of a lobby firm will help the companies “participate and engage on important policy issues affecting Internet companies,” according to FanDuel CEO Nigel Eccles.

Specifically, the DFS companies will likely be looking for Florida policymakers to recognize the reality that the websites do not involve gambling, but rather are skill-based entertainment options.


Brian Ballard, Jan Gorrie, Ballard Partners: IHS Hialeah

Christopher Dudley, Southern Strategy Group: G.L. Homes of Florida Corporation

Edgar Fernandez, Anfield Consulting: Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund

Shirley Goff: Foundation for Florida’s Future


Telecommunications giant AT&T … brought on board Katherine San Pedro as the firm’s Regional Director of External Affairs for Miami-Dade County.

San Pedro previously managed the campaign of Republican Rep. Bryan Avila of Hialeah before joining his staff as a legislative aide in the Capitol, the same trajectory she followed after working on Kendall Republican Rep. Jeanette Nunez‘s victorious campaign for the House.

“I’m excited about this opportunity to further serve the communities of Miami-Dade County in this new capacity,” said San Pedro in a release. “At AT&T, my focus will be continuing to collaborate to grow the economy and make Florida an even better place to live and work.”

PERSONNEL NOTE: Arek Sarkissian is replacing Matt Dixon as the Tallahassee bureau chief for the Naples Daily News.

PERSONNEL NOTE: Look for Caitlin Murray, a former legislative aide to Sen. Jeff Brandes, to be the new Monte Stevens, i.e. Deputy Chief of Staff, at the Office of Insurance Regulation.


On Context Florida: This summer has been wet and soggy, with rainstorms hitting Tampa nearly every day. It won’t stop. Catherine Durkin Robinson offers 10 things to do when it’s raining, besides kill each other. Usually, Republicans get a pat on the back for just being brave enough to speak at a black organization’s annual meeting or conference. Chris Timmons says we must give Jeb Bush the obligatory props for deigning to speak to an overwhelmingly black crowd at the National Urban League recently. But Timmons adds that Bush has not thought outside of conservative banalities, requiring more than slogans in order to address them seriously. Another miss for Bush. Another miss for the GOP vision. The first debate among the top 10 Republican candidates was on prime time Thursday. Debate is not the right word, says Bob Sparks. One issue Republicans traditionally try to avoid like the plague is also destined to come front and center. With the recent Planned Parenthood videos and the resurrected effort to end federal funding for the organization, there is no question the politics of abortion could create major headlines.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Dr. Lawrence A. Miller joins Ed James to discuss the first GOP presidential primary debates.

Facing Florida with Mike Vasilinda: Preparing for the August 10 special session in Tallahassee, plus a Jeb Bush flashback.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: La Gaceta publisher Patrick Manteiga, political consultant Mark Proctor, Politifact’s Josh Gillin, and Tampa Bay Times columnist Ernest Hooper.

On Point with Shannon Ogden on WFCN in Jacksonville: Jax City Councilwoman Anna Brosche on Mayor Curry’s new budget proposal, photographer Dennis Ho and independent presidential candidate Joe Storey.

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Anchor Al Reuchel and political reporter Troy Kinsey break down the new Congressional base maps and look ahead to 2015 Special Session B.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Sen. David Simmons on redistricting and 2015 regular Session fallout, analysts Lou Frey and Dick Batchelor talk redistricting, and Sen. Bernie Sanders get the Truth-O-Meter treatment regarding a recent claim about American healthcare.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Hosts Steve Vancore and Gary Yordon with Extensive Enterprises CEO Peter Schorsch.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Analyst and former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, City Councilor Anna Brosche on the recent debate in Cleveland, local radio talk-show host Paul Porter, political strategist Dr. John Allen Newman and Duval Sheriff’s Office chief investigator Tom Hackney on the open Lonzie Barton case.


Trimmel Gomes’ newest episode of The Rotunda previews the redistricting special session with analysis of the “base” congressional map by Michael McDonald, a political scientist at the University of Florida. As the League of Women Voters and Common Cause Florida take issue with the map being drawn behind closed doors, Sen. Don Gaetz says some people will never be satisfied regardless of the process. Gaetz also talks about the intersection of family and politics while speaking to a group of Florida State University political science students.

Also, Gomes recaps the GOP’s big debate night with a focus on Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio to see who stands out most from the crowd.

The Rotunda podcast is available every Friday via iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud. Subscribers receive free automatic downloads of episodes to their devices.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Kirsten Borman and Southern Strategy Group’s David Browning. A very happy birthday this weekend to my man, Slater Bayliss. Hope you enjoy a perfect dirty martini.

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.