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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – Dec. 10

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray, and Jim Rosica.

Good morning from Tallahassee, where hot water at your hotel is an aspiration and Florida politicos are coming to grips with the fact that the 2016 Legislative Session is just a month away. Holiday parties, like the one last night at the James Madison Institute, are filling everyone’s schedule, while the lobbying and public relations firms scurry to send their best clients and friends year-end tokens of their appreciation (where are those Godiva cookies, Sarah Bascom???)

One of the quietest but fiercest unofficial competitions among the power elite is which company will design the “best” Christmas card. The efforts of GrayRobinson and Southern Strategy Group are always at the top of Santa’s list. While we wait to see what GR and SSG come up with this year, the creatives at CoreMessage have thrown down the gauntlet with a humorous take on this year’s presidential race.

Here’s CoreMessage’s 2015 Christmas card:



Although Sunburn is in Tallahassee, we hear there was one heck of a party last night at the new Ballard Partners office in Las Olas. Spotted there was Warren Sapp (yes Warren Sapp!), Joe Negron, Maria Sachs, Chris Smith, Eleanor Sobel, Marty Kier, and Brian Ballard.

What better way to celebrate the holidays then at this A-list fundraiser benefiting the Republican House and Senate campaign arms and featuring a guest list including House Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran, Republican Majority Leader Sen. Bill Galvano and Chairman Jose Oliva, who is a favorite to become House Speaker after the 2018 elections. Stuart Sen. Joe Negron will also be on hand to celebrate his official naming as Senate President-designate. Festivities begins with a 5 p.m. reception at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, 4441 Collins Ave., in Miami Beach, followed by a 7 p.m. VIP dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab.

Meanwhile, if you are planning any events which marry the holidays with the political, please send us your SPOTTED emails and invites, like this one…

SAVE THE DATE: State Rep. Bill Hager holds his holiday Open House Wednesday, Dec. 16 from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in his House District 89 office, located at 301 Yamato Road, Suite 1240 in Boca Raton. Along with offering a light brunch, Hager will be collecting toy donations and the Big Red Bus will be on hand for blood donations. RSVPs are not necessary, but appreciated, by calling (561) 470-6607.

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POLLS GALORE: Trump leads the New Hampshire Republican field with 34%, according to a CNN/WMUR poll. Rubio places second with 14%, followed by Chris Christie with 9%, Jeb Bush 8%, John Kasich with 7%, Cruz with 6%, and Carson and Carly Fiorina with 5% each. Trump also tops the GOP field nationally with 27%, a Suffolk University/USA Today poll found. Cruz is next with 17%, followed by Rubio with 16%, Carson with 10% and Bush with 4%. The poll also shows Clinton leading Bernie Sanders 56-29%, with Martin O’Malley taking 4%. And according to a Monmouth University poll in Iowa, Clinton tops Sanders 55-33% in Iowa, while O’Malley is at 6%.

DONALD TRUMP’S LAWSUIT BACKFIRES via Politico’s Isaac Arnsdorf – Trump’s threats to sue just sparked a bigger legal fight. Charlie Spies, the Republican campaign-finance whiz who counsels PACs supporting Jeb Bush, is alleging that Trump illegally mixed business and politics when his corporate attorney warned the billionaire’s opponents that attack ads could trigger defamation lawsuits. The claim comes in a complaint filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission.

Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organization, FedEx’ed bombastic cease-and-desist letters on company letterhead to the Club for Growth, the Right to Rise leadership PAC, and Mike Fernandez, one of Bush’s biggest donors. Spies is alleging that Trump crossed a line by using corporate resources to do his campaign’s “dirty work.” In a snarky return salvo, Spies quipped about Trump’s bankruptcies, reality show fame, plan to build a wall on the Mexican border and past donations to Democrats. He also questioned Garten’s grasp of election law, noting that he addressed his threat to the Right to Rise leadership PAC, which contributes to candidates but doesn’t make ads, instead of the well-funded super PAC by the same name.

Spies called on the FEC to investigate immediately and to make a referral to the Justice Department. A Trump campaign spokeswoman didn’t immediately answer a request for comment.

BUT … JEB BUSH’S SUPER PAC BURNING THROUGH MONEY WITH LITTLE TO SHOW FOR IT via Matea Gold of the Washington Post – Right to Rise, has already gone through nearly half of the $103 million it brought in during the first half of the year… raised only about $13 million in the five months that followed … The group’s muted impact so far represents a confounding reality of this year’s unconventional campaign: Money is no longer a clear barometer of success. In Iowa, where Right to Rise has spent nearly $9.4 million since late June, Bush remains stalled in single digits. After the group blanketed New Hampshire with $18.5 million worth of TV ads and yard signs touting Bush, he dropped from a double-digit standing to between 5 and 9 percent support. And in South Carolina, he has fallen out of the top three among GOP presidential contenders, despite a $6.5 million super-PAC barrage on his behalf.

TED CRUZ’S ENVIABLE POSITION IN THE 2016 RACE via Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post – Cruz, as of today, has the most direct route to the Republican presidential nomination — assuming the past history of Republican nomination fights works as a broad predictor of where this race is headed … 1. Cruz is positioned as the most conservative candidate in the race. 2. Cruz has raised the second most money in the race.  3. Cruz is the Iowa frontrunner. 4. The calendar beyond the Big 3 favors Cruz … [he] has begun his ascent up the national polls at just about the right time. (The race will go into deep freeze from around next week through the beginning of 2016.) His campaign is perfectly positioned to make him the last man standing. Believe it.

MARCO RUBIO QUIETLY UNDERMINES AFFORDABLE CARE ACT via Robert Pear of the New York Times – A little-noticed health care provision … Rubio slipped into a giant spending law last year has tangled up the Obama administration, sent tremors through health insurance markets and rattled confidence in the durability of President Obama’s signature health law. So for all the Republican talk about dismantling the Affordable Care Act, one Republican presidential hopeful has actually done something toward achieving that goal. … Rubio’s efforts against the so-called risk corridor provision of the health law has hardly risen to the forefront of the race, … but his plan limiting how much the government can spend to protect insurance companies against financial losses has shown the effectiveness of quiet legislative sabotage.

RUBIO’S WEAK GROUNDGAME IN IOWA UNDERMINES GROUNDGAME via National Review – In a place where retail politicking remains paramount, conservative and evangelical leaders are complaining that the Florida senator hasn’t given them enough attention since launching his White House campaign. While he has begun to attend their events and engage with their constituents, they say his team has not followed up to deepen relationships or organize additional meetings with them. Establishment Republicans, meanwhile, have the same concerns about Rubio’s organization, but worry that Rubio is flirting too aggressively with Iowa’s social conservatives.

FACEBOOK HAILS US PRESIDENTIAL RACE AS 2015’S TOP TOPIC via Michael Liedtke of the Associated Press – “This year, the most talked about global topics reflected the serious challenges people are facing all over the world — and how our global community is connecting and coming together in ways we have never seen before,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook Inc.’s chief operating officer … 1. U.S. presidential election … 2. Nov. 13 attacks in Paris … 3. Syrian civil war and refugee crisis … 4. Nepal earthquakes … 5. Greek debt crisis … TOP POLITICIANS … 1. Obama … 2. Trump … 3. Brazil President Dilma Rousseff … 4. Hilary Clinton … 5. Bernie Sanders.

TRUMP ‘NEVER LEAVING RACE’ – In an interview from earlier this month with The Washington Post, Trump pledges not to get out of the presidential race, no matter the circumstances. “Are you ready? [He waves one arm over his head, as if to clear away everything and remove all doubt.] I. Will. Never. Leave. This. Race

REPUBLICANS FEAR TRUMP COULD JEOPARDIZE CONTROL OF CONGRESS via Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer of POLITICO – With the Iowa caucuses just 55 days away, Republicans are beginning to see Trump as a dire threat to their majorities on Capitol Hill. … From vulnerable senators to top party officials, the fear is palpable and bursting into public view. Congressional Republicans face a tough 2016 landscape even without Trump. Senate Republicans are clinging to a four-seat majority as they defend 24 seats versus just 10 for Democrats. And House Republicans are expecting to lose roughly a dozen seats in 2016. Trump’s rhetoric, they fear, could cause those losses to grow substantially. … [T]he party is seemingly powerless to stop his stubborn lead in most polls. Many congressional Republicans have been hesitant to criticize him, cognizant of his appeal to the populist elements of the party. … [A]s long as he remains a force in the nomination fight, other Republicans are forced to respond to his rhetoric instead of spending time criticizing … Hillary Clinton.

WELL DONE — JAMIE GRANT DOUBLES DOWN ON REFERRING TO TRUMP PROPOSAL ON MUSLIMS AS “FASCIST” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – “The answer to immigration problems in this country is not fascism. It’s not registries of people who look a certain way or believe a certain thing,” Grant said at a meeting of the Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative at the Children’s Board in Ybor City … Chris Latvala has also been extremely outspoken about Trump. “This maniac is a facist (sic)… And democratic plant put in the race by the Clintons … If he wins the nomination he will get trounced by his longtime friend Hillary Clinton. Perhaps that was the plan all along.”

ALAN GRAYSON CAMPAIGN BEGINS ‘RETOOLING’ AFTER EXODUS via Scott Powers of the Orlando Sentinel – campaign spokesman Kevin Franck dismissed the recent staff exodus — which will include him next week — as routine campaign mechanics that will have little impact in the long run … all are leaving for unrelated personal reasons and remain on good terms with Grayson. He insisted the campaign is “on solid ground,” and that the end of the year is simply a good time to retool for the stretch run. Yet Florida political observers and campaign professionals are skeptical. They note that Grayson has a strong personality, a reputation for micromanaging staff and no experience with a big, statewide campaign, so he might be having a hard time keeping experienced staff. By contrast, Murphy‘s campaign staff is growing. He also has a strong advantage thus far in campaign money, a surprise to some Florida Democrats who saw fundraising as one of Grayson’s strengths.

PERSONNEL NOTE: VERN BUCHANAN HIRES GRETCHEN ANDERSEN AS NEW PRESS SECRETARY via Florida Politics – Anderson previously served as press secretary for U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.  Before her stint in Murphy’s office, Andersen was press secretary for the New York City-based Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, as well as an intern for NBC and CBS affiliates in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Andersen is a University of Pittsburgh graduate, earning a BA in English and political science.

HAPPENING TONIGHT: Democrat Eric Lynn hosts a fundraiser to support his bid for Pinellas County’s 13th Congressional District. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the home of Stan and Susan Levy, 5210 West Neptune Way in Tampa. Tickets start at $250 for Supporter, $500 for Friend, $1,000 for a Leader. A spot on the host committee is $2,700.

FLORIDA ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS SAY UTILITIES HAVE SLOWED PETITIONING FOR SOLAR CHOICE AMENDMENT via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Dec. 31 is a critical date for groups pushing constitutional amendments to submit petitions if they want to make the ballot. Right now, Floridians for Solar Choice is far from hitting the 683,149-signature threshold to appear before voters in November … “We are within striking distance of qualifying,” said John Hedrick, president of the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida … [records show] the solar choice group has 253,497 signatures and hasn’t hit the minimum requirements in any of the state’s 27 congressional districts. (They’ll need 8 percent of the voters from half the districts.)

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ACTUAL PRESS RELEASE via Gov. Scott’s office: “Bay State Cable Ties CEO Endorses Governor Scott’s Proposed Reforms for Enterprise Florida”

WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS READING — FLORIDA ADDS 20.5K PRIVATE-SECTOR JOBS IN NOVEMBER via Florida Politics – The Regional Employment Report total is a significant improvement over last year, when the state added 13,900 jobs in November, and is also an improvement over October 2015 numbers, which saw 15,400 jobs added  … ADP estimates that 17,500 of the new jobs went into the service industry, with the remaining 3,000 heading to goods-producing industries … trade, transportation and utilities sector added 5,100 jobs, followed by professional and business services industry at 3,000 and the natural resources, mining and construction industries at 2,900 jobs.

WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE DOESN’T WANT YOU TO READ — AUDIT WARNS THAT SAFETY AT FLORIDA PRISONS IS COMPROMISED BY STAFFING CONCERNS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida’s prisons are infiltrated by drugs, tobacco and cell phones, dependent on outdated security systems, run by inexperienced and overstretched staff, and are housing inmates who are staying longer — and returning just as frequently … the nation’s third largest prison system runs a daily risk of becoming another headline, according to the findings of a comprehensive study conducted by an independent firm hired at the direction of the Florida Legislature.

TAMPA HOUSE DEMOCRATS BLAST RICK SCOTT ADMINISTRATION’S INVESTIGATION INTO PUBLIC HOSPITALS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Scott has been targeting the Florida public hospital industry for much of this year … At a forum highlighting the upcoming Florida legislative session focusing on health care … Ed Narain and Janet Cruz blasted Scott’s efforts as being detrimental. “Where they’re looking at this big pot of dollars and moving to voucher programs and charter schools,” Cruz said. “They want to move away from the public hospitals that in my opinion serve the uninsured and the underinsured. The move is to privatize, and the hospitals are next.” Although Cruz, Narain and … Jamie Grant, the third member of the panel … all said that Medicaid expansion was dead for 2016, it didn’t stop the partisan attacks that have been part and parcel of the debate for years in Florida.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will announce new jobs during a news conference 9 a.m. at Crossman & Company, 3333 South Orange Ave., Suite 201, in Orlando.

ADAM PUTNAM SAYS HE’S OK WITH REGULATING FANTASY SPORTS PLAY via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – he won’t object if lawmakers approve a bill putting him in charge of regulating fantasy sports play in the state … “It’s not without some precedent,” Putnam said, mentioning that his department already regulates sweepstakes and other “game promotions” … “This Legislature along with many other states are going to have to make a policy call on how they proceed with fantasy sports … Whether to allow them with some regulation, whether to prohibit them entirely, or some kind of hybrid” approach. “I haven’t taken a position on the bill,” Putnam said. “I’m trying to learn an awful lot about DraftKings and FanDuel … I’ve been asking, ‘how is this different from the normal fantasy leagues that have been going on for years in a pretty harmless way?’”

JESSE PANUCCIO SAYS EXIT UNRELATED TO HIS SHAKY SENATE CONFIRMATION via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – “It’s not related … Look, I know the politics of the moment are what you guys have to write about, but if you step back and think about people in public life, these jobs are high pressure. They’re intense … I know that in political press stories, you have to focus on conflict. When there’s a policy disagreement, and maybe a back and forth, that may well just be good faith and part of the debate process. But that’s what gets written about.” For now … he’s planning an extended vacation: “What I’d like to do is decompress for a while and spend some time with my family … I don’t rule anything out.”

MEDICAL MARIJUANA RULE-MAKING WORKSHOP A BUZZKILL via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Department of Health officials … presented the first draft of rules to govern the growing, processing and dispensing of medical marijuana … But instead of a spirited debate, they mostly sat quietly, answering a few questions, but not hearing any substantive reaction from growers’ representatives or anyone else in the audience … the proposed regulations weren’t available until people walked through the door for the hearing. The document itself covered an array of concerns, including hygienic practices, security requirements, employee training, even “odor mitigation.”

ANDY GARDINER: RAISES NOT BONUSES FOR STATE EMPLOYEES via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat – he would like to see legislators consider a state employee pay raise in the coming legislative session … As part of his $79.3 billion budget proposal … Scott has recommended a “performance incentive” bonus plan, but no across-the-board raises for the state workforce. Gardiner said there has been some dialogue among Senators about it. The nearly 100,000 workers employed by the state have not had an across-the-board pay raise since 2006. “There’s always hope,” said Gardiner. “We certainly are starting that dialogue when it comes to state employees.”

SHAWN HARRISON SAYS ERIC EISNAUGLE’S PLAN TO RELY ON VOTES FROM FUTURE CLASSES TO WIN SPEAKERSHIP IS WHY HE FLIPPED TO CHRIS SPROWLS via Florida Politics – Harrison wants to make it clear that he still very much likes … Eisnaugle … he had changed his pledge to Sprowls after claiming an iron-clad allegiance to Eisnaugle. Harrison said he switched to end the palace intrigue that contributed to what he called a “Washington, D.C. (style) dysfunction” … Becoming Speaker by winning a majority of support from your class is “the right way to go.”

DEPOSITION QUESTIONS PARTISAN EMAILS OF REDISTRICTING PLAINTIFFS via Matt Dixon of Politico Florida – During an eight-hour deposition, attorneys grilled a map-drawer for a coalition of plaintiffs challenging the state Senate lines, questioning his process, his personal politics, and emails that indicate the challengers were looking to “draw additional dem seats.” … Attorneys for the Legislature argued that the plaintiffs’ maps should also be invalidated because they were drawn by O’Neill, who was hired by a Democratic firm. Justices disagreed, in a decision blasted by Republicans and the Legislature. Plaintiffs now hope that decision will supersede any questions about the credibility of O’Neill’s maps as they consider the state Senate maps.

TWEET, TWEET: @MarcACaputo: Can’t wait till another outlet in Tallahassee posts this @Mdixon55 piece in 13 hours & calls it ‘exclusive’ to them

BLOG POST OF THE DAY — SUBBING COMPUTER CODING FOR FOREIGN LANGUAGES IS IDEA OF A YAHOO via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – Lawmakers, if you want to add something to a student’s learning experience, have at it. Not many people I know are going to hassle you for that … But if you’re going to use legislation to discourage an entire area of learning — quite frankly, an area of education in which America woefully lags behind the rest of the world — please, I beg you, get the opinion of a great many educators first. A great many educators. I’m talking specifically about a bill from Sen. Jeremy Ring … to offer computer coding, but does it at the expense of limiting opportunities to study foreign languages — and ultimately, probably, killing them in Florida classrooms. For Ring, a former executive at Yahoo!, foreign languages are so … well … 20th century. Coding, that’s the ticket. The idea is to encourage more high school students to pursue degrees in computer sciences. Apparently the world needs more coders.

BILL WOULD KEEP FLORIDA ON DAYLIGHT-SAVING TIME PERMANENTLY via Kyle Munzenrieder of the Miami New Times – Dubbed the Sunshine Protection Act, the bill reads, “As the ‘Sunshine State,’ Florida should be kept sunny year-round… daylight saving time shall be the year-round standard time of the entire state and all of its political subdivisions.” … Though an extra hour of sunlight during the evening may be nice — and attractive to tourists — a shift would mean that Florida would be out of sync with the rest of the East Coast for about five months of the year.

HAPPENING TODAY: From airports to seaports, highways to rail lines, Florida’s transportation challenges take center stage as statewide leaders gather at the Florida Chamber Foundation Transportation Summit to seek solutions for the state’s 19.9 million (and rising) residents. Summit begins 9 a.m. at the Omni Jacksonville Hotel, 245 Water St. in Jacksonville. Featured attendees include FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold, state Rep. Lake RayDoug Wheeler, President and CEO of the Florida Ports Council, and Brian Taylor, Chief Executive Officer of Jaxport.

3 LOBBYISTS WALK INTO A RESTAURANT … AND START A NEW FIRM, UNCONVENTIONAL STRATEGIES via Florida Politics – The 101 Restaurant and The Edison, both owned by Adam Corey, quickly became well-known staples of Adams Street culture … Now Corey and partner Nick Matthews have yet another venture they hope will make an even bigger splash downtown: Unconventional Strategies, a new lobbying shop where the two have hung out a shingle. “I guess I’m a glutton for punishment, or at least work,” joked Corey … “I was just looking for that opportunity to blaze my own trail and create my own team … There aren’t that many restaurants in Tallahassee, and that affords me the opportunity to meet all kinds of people who come into town for business or politics” … he’s looking forward to working on projects outside of Florida as well with the firm.


Brian BallardChris Dorworth, Ballard Partners: Chapters Health System

Michael CorcoranJeff JohnstonMichael CantensAmanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: Ruth Eckard Hall

Carlos Isidoro Gutierrez: Consumer Healthcare Products Association

Trevor Wayne Santos: National Shooting Sports Foundation

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Justin Hollis.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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