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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — Jan. 4

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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.

ON TURNING 40

Today is my 40th birthday.

First of all, thank God for allowing me to live this long … to be born an American … and for all of the gifts he has bestowed.

The only way to appropriately reflect on turning forty is by thinking back to when I turned thirty.

What a disaster I was then.

How much of a disaster? So much so that only a month before my 30th birthday, the hometown newspaper ran a front-page story about me titled “A Wilting of Great Promise.

It was that bad. And it would get worse. I didn’t really bottom out for another 18 months.  And as my situation deteriorated, I continued to do horrible things to myself and those around me. Considering what I did then, I am truly lucky to be alive.

At some point then, one of the jobs I burned through was as a waiter at Leverock’s Seafood House, where the early bird special offered a two-fer of the onion-crusted salmon for $6.95. Working for tips of $1.05 at a time forces you to humble yourself.

But I never gave up. I spent the better part of two years deconstructing what I had made of my life. By 2008, I resolved to turn around my life.

The “As God as my witness, I’ll never be hungry again” moment came in New York as I walked home from a double shift at work … uphill … in the snow. I remember how bone-chilling cold it was to this Florida Man. And I kept thinking of the line from Camus: In the midst of water, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”

After I returned to St. Petersburg, one of the last places I hoped to find myself was in a courthouse. The previous visits had not worked out so well! But it was in a courthouse, during the investiture of Thomas Minkoff, where I first saw Michelle.

That’s where the trajectory of my life got back on course while at same time dramatically shifting.

It would take two years after first meeting her before Michelle and I dated. She was too engrossed working for the governor to pay me much attention. But my perseverance paid off. And paid off well.

Today, that ambitious young woman is the most devoted of mothers and wives. We have a beautiful home and purposeful, blessed lives.

Most important — and most improbable considering where I was a decade ago —  we have Ella Joyce. I’m sure there are many other situations similar to my own, but still, do you know of another instance in which a child has more changed a man?

And therein lies the rub: had I not been so off course on my birthday ten years ago, I would not be where I am today.

So when I blow out the candles on this year’s birthday cake, what I will wish for is this: For everyone reading this to give someone in their lives the same kind of grand second chance I was given.

Because a second chance is what I wished for on this day ten years ago.

birthdaycake editOn to politics …

MY TAKE: FIVE BOLD PREDICTIONS FOR 2016 via Florida Politics — 1. Ted Cruz will be the Republican presidential nominee AFTER a brokered convention … Neither Cruz, nor Trump or Rubio or whomever the other surprise winner is will be able to run away with the nomination.  2. At least one of Florida’s seven statewide elected officials will not be in office by the end of the year … something will happen — ambition, opportunity, scandal — to one of these seven that will prompt them to resign early. 3. The Florida Legislature will end the 2016 Legislative Session a) on time AND b) with a sizable list of noteworthy accomplishments … I’m optimistic. I think Joe Negron and Jack Latvala settling the Senate presidency race will improve the environment. I think the redistricting saga winding down will improve the environment. I think a strong Speaker Designate — Richard Corcoran — waiting in the wings will improve the environment … 4. A Seminole Compact will be signed — The deal Scott struck with the Seminole Tribe of Florida is a) better than has been reported but is b) a Spruce Goose seemingly too heavy to take off. 5. A major hurricane will strike the state AND there will be a riot in some city in Florida — It’s been more than ten years since the Sunshine State received a direct hit from a hurricane … Well, guess what, eventually the ball lands on double zero on the roulette wheel. Florida is due, dammit. Bonus prediction, which is a double-down on a bad bet from last year: One of the major Florida newspapers will cease daily publication in 2016 — There are just too many cars on the street for the horse-and-buggy to remain in existence.

DAYS UNTIL … Associated Industries of Florida’s pre-Session party: 6; Beginning of the 2016 Legislative Session: 7; President Obama’s final State of the Union: 7; Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Capitol Days: 10; the next GOP debate, in South Carolina: 9; the next Democratic debate, in South Carolina: 12; final GOP debate before voting begins: 23; Iowa caucuses: 27; final GOP debate before the New Hampshire primary: 32; Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California: 33; Date Florida’s elections supervisors mail domestic ballots: 35; New Hampshire primary: 35; “SEC primary”: 56; Conservative Political Action Conference: 57; Florida presidential primary: 70; Debut of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice: 80; the Republican National Convention in Cleveland: 195; the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia: 202; Florida primary: 238; Election Day: 308

RICK SCOTT RINGS IN THE NEW YEAR via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — Scott rang in 2016 with a New Year’s message sponsored by his political committee. Scott released a 15-second video using his campaign Twitter account Friday morning. In the message, Scott wishes Floridians a Happy New Year, before saying “2016 is going to be a great year for Florida” … “We’ll hit a milestone cutting a billion dollars in taxes and creating a million jobs in just five years,” the Naples Republican says during the video, sponsored by “Let’s Get to Work.” “But don’t think we’re stopping there. Let’s keep working.”

SCOTT’S SCRIPT FOR 2016 via Gary Fineout for his blog, The Fine Print — Responses cover everything from campus carry gun legislation to what he thinks about GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and why he’s opposed to raising the minimum wage. (“Increasing the minimum wage will result in losing jobs.”) …  he’s not endorsing any GOP candidates for president “today” but they include praise for Trump despite the criticism aimed at the businessman from fellow GOP candidates such as … Bush. regarding a bill that would allow concealed weapon holders to bring their guns on university campuses suggests that the Scott administration may have some doubts about the legislation. (“I am not sure there is a silver bullet solution, but college should be a safe place students go to learn, not a place of violence.”) … His talking points on tax cuts, hospital transparency, the proposed deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and Enterprise Florida reforms don’t fully explain Scott’s logic. In other words, how exactly will Scott sell this?

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HOW JEB BUSH HOPES TO SAVE HIS CANDIDACY via Ashley Parker of The New York Times — The plan has six elements: stay on the attack … Bush called … Trump “a jerk,” “unhinged” and a “chaos candidate” … Expect more of the same in 2016. Avoid embarrassment in Iowa … Bush knows he is not likely to win Iowa. He just can’t lose there too badly … do well in New Hampshire … Did somebody say “town hall”? Woo Lindsey Graham … On the morning. Graham dropped out of the race for president, Bush was ready with the hard sell. Use the family network … Another key for Bush in South Carolina is his older brother, former President George W. Bush … where he remains popular … Sometime after the New Hampshire primary … Continue the ad blitz … Bush’s super PAC has so far spent tens of millions on television ads that have largely failed to help his standing in the polls. But the group will continue the ad campaign, keeping its focus on Trump, but also beginning to contrast Bush with his rivals for the party’s more mainstream base.

ICYMI: BUSH CAMPAIGN SHIFTS RESOURCES TO EARLY STATES IN STRATEGY SHAKE-UP via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — Bush‘s campaign … is deploying nearly all of its staff in its Miami headquarters to early states and shifting millions of dollars in TV ad reservations. On a … staff-wide conference call, top campaign officials, including campaign manager Danny Diaz, informed employees that the deployment would be staggered throughout the month of January. The campaign is expected to dispatch between 50 and 60 staffers in Miami and elsewhere, with 20 going to New Hampshire and 10 or more going to Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada. … The campaign … will scrap over $1 million of TV spending in Iowa … and around $2 million in South Carolina.

IOWA EMERGES AS A FREE-FOR-ALL AMONG GOP’S ESTABLISHMENT CANDIDATES via Philip Rucker and Robert Costa of The Washington Post — While New Hampshire remains the hub of activity for Christie and other establishment-favored Republican candidates, including Bush and Rubio … Iowa has suddenly emerged as a playground of opportunity, where an intense and stealthier battle among them is getting underway. None of the establishment candidates expects to win Iowa, but associates of Christie, Bush and Rubio see an opportunity for a victory of momentum — and positive media coverage — for whomever can capture the most mainstream Republican support. That faction, which the campaigns see as up for grabs, is estimated at anywhere from 20 to 35 percent of the electorate. The moderates have another motivation: to somehow slow Cruz of and Trump, who have dominated the polls here for weeks. Many Republican leaders worry that if the two win big on caucus night, they could be hard to stop elsewhere.

DONALD TRUMP’S LIST GIVES SOME A SURPRISE via Dan Tuohy of the New Hampshire Union Leader — A few Granite Staters were surprised to see their names on the billionaire’s list of town chairmen … One headline sounds like it was plucked from The Onion … “Reporter stunned to see he’s Trump‘s Tamworth chair,” read the headline in The Conway Daily Sun. The reporter, Daymond Steer, explained in the Sun article that his name was somehow added to the endorsement list when he was surfing the Trump website for a story. The Trump campaign has since rectified the mistake.

TRUMP’S STRONGEST SUPPORTERS: A CERTAIN KIND OF DEMOCRAT via Nate Cohn of The New York Times — His very best voters are self-identified Republicans who nonetheless are registered as Democrats. It’s a coalition that’s concentrated in the South, Appalachia and the industrial North, according to data … [from] Civis Analytics … He fares best in a broad swath of the country stretching from the Gulf Coast, up the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, to upstate New York. … Trump‘s best state is West Virginia, followed by New York. Eight of Trump’s 10 best congressional districts are in New York, including several on Long Island. North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana and South Carolina follow. … Trump’s strength fades as one heads west. Nearly all of his weakest states — 16 of his worst 19 — lie west of the Mississippi.

ANTI-TRUMP GROUP MAKES PLEA TO IOWA VOTERS AT ROSE BOWL via Abbey Mastracco of The Associated Press — A skywriter flew over the famed Pasadena stadium to troll Trump and appeal to Iowa voters … Several messages were written in the sky during the parade voicing opposition to Trump’s presidential campaign. A trio of anti-Trump sentiments were written out while the Rose Parade was ending, including, “America is great, Trump is disgusting,” taking aim at his campaign phrase, “Make American Great Again!” Other messages accused him of “hate” and called him a “fascist dictator.”

TOP TALKER ON THE RIGHT — MARCO RUBIO IS PLENTY CONSERVATIVE via Jim Geraghty of the National Review — [I]f Rubio really represents the new GOP “establishment,” then the fight is over and the conservatives won. Despite infuriating many grassroots conservatives by pushing the failed Gang of Eight immigration-reform bill and advocating a path to legalization, Rubio has an indisputably conservative record as a senator. This is a man who has a lifetime [American Conservative Union] rating of 98 out of 100.

TOP TALKER ON THE LEFT — RUBIO DOESN’T ADD UP via Frank Bruni of the New York Times — [Maybe] I’m just not crunching the numbers right … But the more I stare at them, the less sense Rubio makes … as the front-runner … probable Republican nominee. According to oddsmakers and prediction markets, he’s the best bet. According to many commentators, too. But Iowa’s less than a month away, and in two recent polls of Republican voters there, he’s a distant third, far behind Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. So he’s killing it in New Hampshire, right? Wrong. A survey from two weeks ago had him second to Trump there, but another, just days earlier, put him in third place — after Trump and Cruz, again. Chris Christie’s inching up on him, the reasons for which were abundantly clear in a comparison of Christie’s freewheeling campaign style and Rubio’s hyper-controlled one … Real Clear Politics average of recent polls in South Carolina showed Rubio to be more than six points behind Cruz and 21 behind Trump among that state’s Republicans … the rap on Rubio is that he … spends too little time on the trail. The largest newspaper in New Hampshire took aim at the infrequency of his appearances there in an editorial with the headline: “Marco? Marco? Where’s Rubio?”

RUBIO IS NOT A REPUBLICAN BARACK OBAMA. AND THAT’S HIS PROBLEM via Matt Bai of Yahoo Politics — On paper, Obama and Rubio present strikingly similar candidacies. Both were state legislators who became celebrated first-term senators. Both represent a demographic shift in the country toward a fast-approaching non white majority. Both rose on the strength of inspiring personal stories and electrifying speeches. But 2016 is turning out to be nothing like 2008, and Rubio’s candidacy isn’t really much like Obama’s. For one thing, Obama benefited from having the kind of clear foil, in Hillary Clinton, whom Rubio had hoped to face in a smaller field — older, establishment-backed, shadowed by a sense of dynastic entitlement. Rubio isn’t anything like the fluid politician Obama was in 2008 … where Obama has always exuded preternatural confidence (some call it arrogance) and an informal, self-deprecating style, Rubio telegraphs caution and uncertainty.

ICYMI: HOW RUBIO HELPED HIS EX-CON BROTHER-IN-LAW ACQUIRE A REAL ESTATE LICENSE via Scott Higham and Manuel Roig-Franzia of The Washington Post — When … Rubio was majority whip of the Florida House … he used his official position to urge state regulators to grant a real estate license to his brother-in-law, a convicted cocaine trafficker who had been released from prison 20 months earlier … In July 2002, Rubio sent a letter on his official statehouse stationery to the Florida Division of Real Estate, recommending Orlando Cicilia “for licensure without reservation.” The letter … offers a glimpse of Rubio using his growing political power to assist his troubled brother-in-law and provides new insight into how the young lawmaker intertwined his personal and political lives. Rubio did not disclose in the letter that Cicilia was married to his sister, Barbara, or that the former cocaine dealer was living at the time in the same West Miami home as Rubio’s parents. He wrote that he had known Cicilia “for over 25 years,” without elaborating.

CHRIS CHRISTIE’S PUNCH LINES VS. RUBIO’S POLISH ON IOWA CAMPAIGN TRAIL via Michael Barbaro of the New York Times — It was the same question, on the same topic, asked on the same day to two different candidates: How, as president, would you hold down the crushing cost of a college education? Christie … gave an operatic, eight-minute answer … At a campaign stop 70 miles away … Rubio … gave an answer half as long … efficiently, almost mechanically, ticked through his three-point plan to allow students to use work experience for class credit (in his words, “competency-based learning”), let private investors pay for tuition and make colleges divulge which majors yield the best-paying jobs … a close-in study of their approach over 48 hours here reveals the strikingly different styles of the rivals, who are under increasing pressure to perform … Rubio favors lofty, patriotic, high-minded narration to make his points; Christie relies on emotional, sometimes borscht-belt-style storytelling that can drag his events to two hours, twice as long as Rubio’s.

TOP BEN CARSON AIDES QUIT AMID CAMPAIGN TURMOIL via Trip Gabriel and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times — Resignations of Barry Bennett, the campaign manager, and Doug Watts, the spokesman, come as Carson has been scrambling to stop a slide in polls amid questions about his grasp of foreign policy and scrutiny of his biographical narrative with the Iowa caucuses looming on Feb. 1. The top aides were in a tug of war for Carson’s allegiance with an outside adviser, Armstrong Williams, a volatile situation that speaks of the management style of Carson, a retired surgeon. The candidate has tried to make his lack of political experience a selling point, but his handling of his warring aides risks painting a picture of an indecisive executive just as voters in Iowa are paying close attention.

ABRASIVE TED CRUZ TRIES TO USE PERSONALITY TO HIS ADVANTAGE via Scott Bauer of The Associated Press — Cruz is increasingly embracing his irascible persona, trying to turn what could be a liability into an asset. “If you want someone to grab a beer with, I may not be that guy,” Cruz said … when asked to describe his biggest weakness. “But if you want someone to drive you home, I will get the job done and I will get you home.” Cruz and his supporters relish his outsider status, highlighting his conflicts with fellow Republican senators. Not one has endorsed him for president. A group backing Cruz’s candidacy sent out a fundraising email plea … with the subject line “Washington hates Ted Cruz”… Foreign Policy magazine once described him as “the human equivalent of one of those flower-squirters that clowns wear on their lapels.” Research shows that the importance of a candidates’ likability may be overrated anyway, said David Redlawsk, a Rutgers University expert in Iowa electoral politics … “Voters are looking for a whole range of things … and likability is just one small part of that.”

CRUZ’S FUNDRAISING JUMPS IN 4TH QUARTER via Janet Hook of The Wall Street Journal — Cruz raised almost $20 million for his presidential campaign in the fourth quarter — a 66 percent increase over the previous three-month period … up sharply from the $12.2 million raised in the third quarter, a bonanza that came as polls showed Cruz rising to a top-tier candidate. By the end of the third quarter, Mr. Cruz already had more cash on hand than any other GOP candidate.

TV, THE OLD KING OF U.S. POLITICS, FACES MORTALITY via Rick Hampson of USA TODAY — It’s a paradox of the 2016 campaign: unprecedented political spending on TV ads, and unprecedented doubt over whether it’s having much impact. The fall of King TV is not imminent. But in 2015, TV broadcast advertising seemed inversely related to political success, as measured by polls. Outsider-neophytes like Trump have thrived with little or no paid TV, while some of the least successful candidates have spent the most. Bush’s campaign and political action committee spent more than twice as much as … Rubio, and aired about $30 million worth of ads in early voting states. But now he trails in those states and averages in the low single digits in national polls. Other candidates have fared even worse. Some wonder if this default response still makes sense. “For candidates who’ve failed to build momentum with ads,’’ says [Kantar Media’s] Elizabeth Wilner, “the response has been to run more ads.’’ Big TV buys — traditionally a sign of a campaign’s strength — are beginning to look like a sign of weakness.

MEANWHILE … HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN REPORTS $37M IN PRIMARY MONEY IN Q4 via Ken Thomas of The Associated Press — … and more than $112 million in all of 2015 to support her bid for the Democratic nomination … she raised $18 million for the Democratic National Committee and state Democratic parties nationwide in the fourth quarter, putting her total haul for the past three months at $55 million … It has nearly $38 million in cash on hand … more than 60 percent of its donors in 2015 were women … 94 percent of the donations it received in the fourth quarter came in increments of $100 or less. The campaign spent about $75 million in 2015, building large organizations in the early voting states and a data-driven operation to connect with voters.

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BRAD HEROLD LEAVING STATE GOP TO JOIN DESANTIS CAMPAIGN via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — … will officially leave the party before the end of the month. Herold was named the [Republican Party of Florida] executive director in May as part of wide-ranging staffing turnovers after the January election of party chair Blaise Ingoglia … previously served as deputy state director for Rubio’s Senate office, said he wants to get in the Senate race to make sure Republicans hold the seat being vacated by his old boss. “And as the front-runner for the Republican US Senate nomination, Ron DeSantis is our best chance to do this,” Herold said.

TWEET, TWEET: @SaintPetersBlog: @FloridaGOP confirms our earlier report: George Riley will serve as Acting Executive Director, beginning January 16.

ONCE AGAIN, ALAN GRAYSON VIOLATES ETHICS RULES, THIS TIME USING HOUSE COMMITTEE CLIP IN CAMPAIGN AD via Florida Politics — Grayson simply doesn’t get it: Mixing a campaign with his official duties in Congress is a violation of ethics rules … to promote his Senate bid — [he] uses an MSNBC clip of him speaking during a congressional hearing — yet another violation of … House Rule 11, Clause 4(b) … Granted, the clip is only seconds long. Blink and you may miss it. And in most cases, a candidate could explain it away as a mere oversight. But this is Alan Grayson, and his ad becomes just one more in an ever-lengthening list of campaign violations for using his taxpayer-funded Congressional office. What’s more, these shenanigans have been going on longer than Grayson’s actual Senate campaign.

JUDGE APPROVES NEW MAP FOR STATE SENATE DISTRICTS via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press — In a decision that could signal the end of Republican domination of the Florida Legislature, a circuit judge … approved a new map for 40 state senate districts. Judge George Reynolds … rejected boundaries for Senate districts drawn up by a top Republican … instead signed off on a map … split nearly evenly between GOP and Democratic-leaning districts and will likely create four South Florida seats that could be won by Hispanic candidates. Because the map was redrawn, all 40 senate seats will be up during a presidential election year, when there is usually higher turnout. Reynolds ruled that the map drawn by the Florida Legislature under the instructions of Republican Sen. Bill Galvano appeared to favor Republicans … Reynolds acknowledged Galvano’s testimony that he had not relied on election data while drawing up his proposal, but the judge said it was hard to ignore evidence that showed the map chosen by the Senate tilted toward Republicans and avoided placing incumbent senators in the same districts. “It is difficult to infer anything other than impermissible partisan intent in the selection,” wrote Reynolds.

HOW THE REDISTRICTING DECISION PLAYED

Bradenton Herald, “Florida judge rejects Bradenton state Sen. Bill Galvano’s map; approves another for Florida Senate districts” — Reynolds’ ruling … was the latest defeat for the Republican-led Legislature and adds a wave of uncertainty in a year in which all 40 Senate seats will be on the ballot … could threaten the GOP’s two-decade dominance of the Senate. WJCT, Judge Approves Florida Senate Map Drawn By Voting-Rights Group” – “’This is another great result for our clients, but also a great result for every voter in the state of Florida,’ [said] David King, a lawyer for the voting-rights groups … ‘Because when they go to the polls in 2016, they’re going to be able to cast a vote on constitutional maps for the congressional election and for the state Senate elections.’” WBZT, “Judge Deals a Blow to Florida Legislature in Senate Redistricting Case” – “Experts who have examined that map say it will give Democrats a chance to take a majority in the Senate… something they haven’t had since 1992.” South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “Redistricting ruling could bring Democratic resurgence in Florida Senate” – “’I think we have a good chance to even out the state and get it to look a little bit more like it should,’ said Sen. Oscar Braynon … who’s leading Senate Democrats’ election efforts in 2016.” Lakeland Ledger, “Judge rejects GOP Senate map; decision could alter political landscape in Florida” – “If it is appealed, the Supreme Court is likely to make the final decision — and that court has hardly been a kind forum for the Legislature, which has lost almost every redistricting challenge it has made.” Tampa Bay Times, “Florida Senate has not ruled out appeal to court’s redistricting ruling” – “We have not foreclosed the option to appeal on the state or federal level,” said … Bill Galvano … the Senate is also exploring a legal option to request a rehearing of the redistricting case. Miami Herald, “Florida lawmakers consider appeal of judge’s ruling on state Senate redistricting” – “… the Florida Senate is expected Tuesday to hold a random lottery to assign district numbers to each of the 40 districts Reynolds approved.”

TWEET SHOT: @fineout: Dear @FLSenate — it appears you may have just lost your GOP majority

TWEET CHASER: @DJGroup: May is keyword. As in we will have a better idea of how things look about May, and May the Force be with you, Gary.

MORE TWEETS:

— @SaintPetersblog: RodSmithforSenate.com available on @GoDaddy.

— @MichaelAuslen: .@repdanayoung says she’s “seriously looking at” the district that includes her South Tampa home (No. 17).

— @OscarJb2: I think Rep. Cruz lives in and reps that area? But what do I know? I don’t live in that area, you do

— @jeffschweersTBO: Tom Lee could wind up in primary against Bill Galvano or in a Dem-leaning district, according to @mcimaps

— @Jenna_Buzzacco: Pretty sure under this map, Collier loses only elected D, @DwightBullard. His family rep’d eastern Collier for years

— @Daniel_Sweeney: .@Book4Senate to run in Dist. 29, even if it’s against @jimwaldman and Gary Farmer. That leaves a wide open Dist. 40.

— @SaintPetersblog: Caveat to ALL predictions ALL of us have made today: A year ago, almost ALL of us were saying @JebBush would be GOP prez nominee

REDISTRICTING JUDGE QUESTIONS NOT USING POLITICAL DATA TO DRAW MAPS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — [The] circuit court judge who oversaw a four-day trial on state Senate redistricting questioned the wisdom of lawmakers not considering political data during the redistricting process … use of that data is not explicitly banned, but as lawmakers have drawn House, Senate and congressional maps over the past three years, they have taken pains to stress that no political data was involved in their process. That sort of data includes information about how a seat performs politically and knowing where incumbents live to ensure they are not drawn into the same seats. “In my opinion, the perceived prohibition on the use of political performance data in the drawing and evaluation of maps seems to have caused a good deal of the problem and the criticism faced by the Legislature,” wrote Judge George Reynolds in his 73-page ruling.

NEW SENATE MAP COULD SHAKE UP DISTRICT 1 RACE via Tom McLaughlin of the Panama City News-Herald — Much attention has been paid to the state Senate race for the District 1 seat, where state Rep. Matt Gaetz has drawn a stiff challenge from Bay County Commissioner George Gainer … that battle had taken an interesting new twist. [The new] Senate district map … draws state Sen. Greg Evers’ home of Baker into District 1. “There’s Rep. Gaetz and Mr. George Gainer, and then there’s three,” Evers said. Although he also could run again in the current District 2, he didn’t rule out competing against Gainer and Gaetz … Gainer said Evers would make a formidable opponent if he runs for Senate District 1, but it won’t change his campaign plans.

JOHN LEGG SAYS HE WON’T CHALLENGE WILTON SIMPSON IN PASCO IF SENATE PRESIDENCY ON THE LINE via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times — both Pasco Republicans — suddenly have the possibility of fighting over the same territory  … drawn into what would be the new District 11, running from central and northeastern Pasco to Hernando and Citrus counties. “I have no desire to run against Wilton, but we’ll look at how it all shakes out,” Legg said … he’s already raised $200,000 for his re-election and collected petitions to get on the ballot. He said he has every intention of running for re-election in his present district. But that intention has one key limit … “It is more important to have a Senate President from our area than my own political future.” Legg said he would not challenge Simpson if he still can become Senate President. But whether Simpson gets a shot at being president could hinge on a lottery drawing that is expected to take place [this] week.

BOBBY POWELL SAYS HE’S “ALL IN” TO RUN FOR NEWLY DRAWN SENATE SEAT via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — [all] signs pointed toward Democratic state Sens. Joseph Abruzzo and Maria Sachs running against each other for one seat and …  running for a freshly carved north-county seat. Powell … would “strongly” consider running in the north-county Senate seat if no incumbent does … he had talked to both Abruzzo and Sachs after Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds’ recommendation and was convinced that both are determined to run in new District 34, which includes Boca Raton, Wellington and western communities. In the new Senate District 25, Powell could face Democratic primary opposition from Emily Slosberg, an attorney and political consultant who is the daughter of state Rep. Irving Slosberg.

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RICHARD CORCORAN WANTS HOUSE GOP CANDIDATES TO QUALIFY BY PETITION via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Corcoran will set up a committee of 15 GOP lawmakers who will help oversee members’ campaigns in the upcoming cycle … urging every candidate to reach the 2016 ballot by the alternate method of gathering signatures from voters, not paying the qualifying fee of nearly $1,800. “Our goal is that by the time qualifying happens there will be more people in our conference qualifying by petition and going the grassroots than ever before,” the Land O’Lakes lawmaker says. Under the petition method, state law requires House candidates to gather signatures from 1 percent of the voters by late May (qualifying opens June 20). The number of voters ranges from a low of 639 voters in … Dave Kerner‘s Palm Beach County district to a high of 1,347 in … Cyndi Stevenson‘s district south of Jacksonville.

BALLOT INITIATIVES FACE YEAR-END GOAL FOR PETITIONS via Michael Auslen of the Miami Herald — The fates of constitutional amendments legalizing medical marijuana and reaffirming existing, utility-friendly solar energy laws could be decided in the coming hours … Dec. 31 represents a crucial deadline by which they hope to submit all the petitions required to be on the ballot. County election supervisors aren’t required to count petitions received after that point. It takes 683,149 petitions, signed by registered voters, to make the ballot in 2016. They must include support from 8 percent of voters in 14 of Florida’s 27 congressional districts. Both Consumers for Smart Solar — the solar group funded by the state’s major utility companies — and United for Care — the medical marijuana group funded by lawyer John Morgan — say they have gathered more than 1 million petitions. Still, they continue to solicit support from donors and petition signers.

FLORIDIANS FOR SOLAR CHOICE SUES PCI CONSULTING IN SIGNATURE PETITION BATTLE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — … filed the suit Dec. 23 in the U.S. Southern District of Florida … six days after FloridaPolitics.com reported that PCI Consulting … was withholding 212,000 signatures from Floridians for Solar Choice. The solar group had paid PCI over $1.2 million for its work, but a serious disagreement about payment of services arose … Floridians for Solar Choice needs 683,149 valid signatures by Feb. 1 to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. The group, however, is far short, having submitted 273,280 signatures to the state … well over 400,000 signatures shy of the magic number. PCI’s withholding of over 212,000 “rendered it impossible for FSC … to have its proposed amendment placed on the ballot,” according to the lawsuit. “What we are disputing is the fact he arbitrarily added some $200,000 worth of unsubstantiated expenses on to this,” Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said … “And those expenses were in addition to the cost of the petitions.”

***SUNBURN is brought to you in part by Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC, a top-notch public affairs, political communications and public relations firm. Visit www.bascomllc.com to read about their growing team, success stories and case studies.***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will announce new jobs during a 10 a.m. news conference at R+L Logistics, 16520 S. Tamiami Trail, Suite 180 in Fort Myers. Then, at 2:30 p.m., the governor will be at Integrity Express Logistics, 4902 Eisenhower Blvd. N. Suite 380 in Tampa.

MEDICAID STILL A THORNY SUBJECT FOR LEGISLATORS IN FLORIDA via Arek Sarkissian of the Tampa Tribune — Don’t expect another bruising fight this year in the Legislature over expanding Medicaid in Florida … Florida lawmakers will spend this year’s session discussing ways to keep Medicaid costs under control … determine how much more state money is needed to cover the loss of federal cash for a small Medicaid program that helps cover the cost of uncompensated care provided to the poor through hospitals and other providers. Federal officials told the state last year that they would only provide $1 billion in the current budget year and a little more than $600 million next year for the low-income pool program that in past years has received more than $2 billion in state and federal money … even without expansion, Medicaid spending grows each year. The total for Medicaid in fiscal 2005 was $14.3 billion, and that has since jumped to the current $24.6 billion, with an increase every year in the state budget.

LAWMAKERS PROPOSE REDUCING SCRATCH-OFF TICKET SALES via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — [How] come Rep. Frank Artiles … and Sen. Tom Lee … want to reduce sales of state government’s most profitable stock in trade? The fact that most of the impact falls on those who can least afford it has never stopped the Legislature from doing anything else. Artiles and Lee have introduced a bill that would reduce the number of scratch-off lottery games to 20, and cap their selling price at $5. There are now about 75 scratch-off games, priced up to $25 a ticket. The games have a nearly 30-year record of generating billions for the public schools. If the legislators siphon some general revenue out of the bottom, before putting the “education enhancement trust fund” dollars in on top, that’s not the [Lottery] department’s department. The idea of protecting people from their own folly seems downright un-Republican, and runs against the whole idea of having a lottery.

2 GAMING FORUMS COME TO ORLANDO via Caitlin Dineen of the Orlando Sentinel — [The] Florida Gaming Congress, the premier forum for leaders following the state’s gambling industry, opens Wednesday at Rosen Shingle Creek. Speakers planned include Richard Turner, vice president of government relations for the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association; Dave Jonas, chief executive officer of Casino Miami; and Jennifer Kruse, deputy director of Florida Council for Compulsive Gambling. Atlantic City-based Spectrum Gaming Group organizes and produces the gaming congress. Immediately following the … congress, the winter meeting of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States will be held Jan. 8-10. It also takes place at Rosen Shingle Creek. The New York-based Council is an organization of state lawmakers that meets regularly to discuss issues related to gaming.

SAVE THE DATE: House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran, and state Reps. José Oliva and Dana Young are hosting a fundraising reception Thursday, Jan. 7 to support state Rep. Shawn Harrison in his re-election bid for House District 63. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the Legacy at Highwoods Preserve, 18600 Highwoods Preserve Parkway in Tampa.

SAVE THE DATE: Term-limited Democratic State Rep. Alan Williams is hosting a fundraising reception Wednesday, January 6 in support of his bid to become Leon County Supervisor of Elections. The event begins 6 p.m. at the home of Mike Watkins, 3170 Dunbar Ln. in Tallahassee. Suggested contribution is $100. Due to the fundraising prohibition during the upcoming legislative session, checks for this fundraiser must be received on or before January 11.

SPRING TRAINING HARDBALL: HOW A DISGRACED POLITICIAN HELPED SAVE THE GAME via Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post — It had been seven years since [former Congressman MarkFoley fled Washington in disgrace, resigning for sending sexually explicit messages to a former male page. Now, he was looking for redemption … at The Breakers …  [playing] a critical role in preserving South Florida’s place in baseball’s Grapefruit League, a collective behind-the-scenes effort to pull off what for many months seemed impossible: Getting often-clashing political bodies to agree on plans for a $144 million, two-team spring training stadium … tapping what Washington connections he still had for a chance to get involved in a high-profile project in his old congressional district. His involvement would create anxiety and tension for some participants … but in the end he would help push the project home.

REMEMBERING NORENE CHASE, A “WARRIOR” WITH A CLIPBOARD via Rosanne Dunkelberger of Florida Politics — On the second day of 2016, a group of about 100 gathered at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee to bid farewell Norene Olson Chase, who, at 91, lived a decade longer than the average woman in the United States. She died Dec. 14 … she was eulogized by family and friends [as] an extraordinary “peace warrior,” ardently advocating for the causes she supported … environmental conservation and conservation, voter education and community engagement, universal health care and uplifting the lives of migrant workers. Much of her work was done through the League of Women Voters and she was honored … in 2013 with a 50-Year Lifetime Achievement Award. The “in lieu of flowers” comment in her obituary didn’t ask for donations to her causes, but asked the communities she touched to “continue sharing their time and talents on social and environmental justice, engaging and educating voters, good governance and conflict resolution or wherever your heart takes you to help create a more just, peaceful and sustainable future for all.”

TRIAL SET TO BEGIN FOR JACKSONVILLE MAN FACING 120 YEARS IN PRISON FOR FIRING 2 SHOTS via Larry Hannan of the Florida Times-Union — … although no one was hurt during the six aggravated assaults he was charged with using a deadly weapon. Under Florida’s 10-20-Life law, Circuit Judge Jack Schemer would have no choice but to sentence 58-year-old Randal Ratledge to 20 years for each count. Jurors likely would not be aware of the mandated sentence. Defense attorneys say Ratledge, a military veteran, does not belong in prison for the rest of his life and are critical of prosecutors for not waiving the requirement. Attorney Bill Sheppard said he’d be willing to plead Ratledge guilty if prosecutors would waive 10-20-Life and let Schemer impose any sentence that the judge thought was just. But the best offer he’s gotten is 18 years in prison, and that’s essentially a life sentence for someone Ratledge’s age, Sheppard said.

***A special message from Florida’s horsemen: While legislators debate using hard-earned taxpayer dollars for corporate relocation incentives, Florida employers who’ve been hard at work for decades could lose everything, thanks to “decoupling”— a Big Casino cash grab and gambling expansion plan tucked inside the Seminole Compact. It seems senseless to kill established Florida businesses, while spending public money in hopes new business may materialize. But Florida could do just that when “decoupling” leaves horse racing investors with NO WAY to do business and NO CHANCE to recoup financial return. Gambling policy should be about growing Florida’s economy. Not padding the pockets of Big Casinos. Florida’s horsemen oppose decoupling in ANY form. NoDecoupling.com.***

DISNEY HAS A MONEY PROBLEM THAT EVEN ‘STAR WARS’ CAN’T FIX via Drew Harwell of The Washington Post — Star Wars: The Force Awakens … has broken virtually every box office record in history … But investors haven’t exactly rewarded the media titan: Disney’s stock has tumbled more than 6 percent since that premiere, and even analysts impressed with perhaps the biggest franchise on earth say it’s not enough to shield the Big Mouse from its greatest challenge. Disney’s real threat, analysts say, is in cable TV, particularly in the heavy long-term costs it pays to air sports on its struggling juggernaut ESPN. As more viewers opt to pay less for cable — or cut the cord altogether — Disney’s heaping of stunningly pricey sports-TV contracts looks riskier every year. “Even the Force cannot protect ESPN,” BTIG Research analyst Rich Greenfield recently wrote in a note downgrading the stock to “sell.”

MOVING CFB SEMIFINALS TO NEW YEAR’S EVE A TOTAL FLOP via Paul Newberry of The Associated Press — [T]he semifinal games should move back to New Year’s Day. The other major bowls should serve as worthy prelims, not meaningless consolations. Of course, the powers-that-be are refusing to acknowledge the obvious. This is, after all, the sport that nonsensically resisted a playoff until last season. … The Orange Bowl [on ESPN] got a 9.1 rating, a plunge of 38.5 percent from last year’s Rose Bowl (14.8) held in the same afternoon time slot but Jan. 1. The number of viewers fell even more – dropping from 28,164,000 for the Rose to just 15,640,000 for the Orange, a staggering decline for such a high-profile event. The Cotton Bowl [also on ESPN] … 9.6 rating was down a whopping 36.8 percent from last year’s 15.2 for the Sugar Bowl in the same time slot, while the total viewership crashed 34.4 percent, going from 28,271,000 to 18,552,000. Of course, neither game was competitive, and that didn’t help. But there’s no way to sugarcoat this debacle.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Ella Coffee (we miss you), Julie Ward BujalskiEd Turanchik. Sharing a birthday today with me: Razi Amador, David Geller, Sandy Mortham, and my dear friend Sydney Ridley.

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

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