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

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

If you are a true political aficianado — and if you are reading Sunburn, you almost have to be — yesterday, July 9 was the most consequential 24 hours in state politics since Election Day. With at least four major news stories, it was Christmas in July for political junkies.

How busy was it yesterday? The senior U.S. Senator from Florida, Bill Nelson, announced that he has prostate cancer and that said cancer would not impact his re-election plans for 2018, thereby all-but-declaring that he is running again in three years. On any other day, that would be an above-the-fold headline. But today, Nelson will be lucky if he makes it to 3B of the newspapers.

It was, as Aaron Sorkin would describe it, “What kind of day has it been.”

TEXT MESSAGE OF THE DAY via Chris Spencer, legislative aide to Sen. Jeff Brandes and newlywed: “Wake up in the morning on a Hawaiian beach to find that the sky is falling in Florida politics.”


The Florida Supreme Court ruled … the state’s congressional maps don’t meet the requirements of a voter-approved constitutional amendment that prohibits political lines from being drawn to favor incumbents or a political party. The court ordered the Legislature to try drawing the maps again.

The ruling means there could be an upheaval as incumbents seek re-election and candidates from both parties seek to fill open seats. Florida has 27 congressional districts and the ruling could affect 22 of them. The court ordered eight districts be redrawn, but in doing so, 14 districts that border might also have to be changed.

The court told the Legislature to act swiftly since qualifying for congressional races is approaching. Candidates must file their paperwork to get on the 2016 ballot during the first week in May.

The court chastised the Republican-led Legislature for working behind the scenes to draw the maps.

The ruling will affect districts held by Democratic Reps. Corrine BrownKathy CastorTed Deutch and Lois Frankel and Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-BalartCarlos CurbeloIleana Ros-Lehtinen and David Jolly.

Florida has 17 Republican U.S. House members and 10 Democrats despite Democrats having an advantage in voter registration. Florida has 4.6 million Democrats and 4.2 million Republicans.

A coalition that included the League of Women Voters challenged the lines, saying Republicans who drew them up ignored the new constitutional requirements approved by voters in 2010. A lower court agreed that GOP leaders and operatives made a mockery of the amendment, but only ordered two central Florida districts be redrawn.

The Supreme Court said that wasn’t good enough.

TWEET, TWEET: @JLRosica: Tidbit: Justice Pariente’s footnote smackdown of Canady dissent: “Perhaps we should take solace in not being accused of ‘jiggery-pokery.'”



For Florida Democrats, the dream 2016 scenario goes like this: A Democrat gets elected to Congress in Tampa. Another one in Orlando. A third in Miami. The party picks up three seats, suddenly holding almost half of the state’s congressional delegation.

But Thursday’s ruling by the Florida Supreme Court ordering that the state’s congressional map be redrawn doesn’t guarantee the Democrats’ wishes will come true.

The court’s 5-2 decision landed as a political bombshell 16 months before an election in the country’s largest swing state. Two of the districts directly affected already have nationally watched competitive races. Yet it’s too early to know exactly how everything will play out, especially considering how the state Democratic Party has struggled to seize past opportunities.

Much will depend on the Republican-controlled Florida House and Senate, which are responsible for creating the new boundaries. The court wants eight of the state’s 27 congressional districts redrawn in 100 days, though more districts will almost certainly be affected.

What gives Democrats hope is that the eight targeted districts are in the state’s most populated — read: most liberal — areas: Three are based in Miami-Dade County and two in Broward and Palm Beach; two lie in the Tampa Bay area, and one stretches from Jacksonville to Orlando.

TWEET, TWEET: @SaintPetersBlog: Once again, or should I say as always, @RichardCorcoran is the most powerful force in Florida politics

TWEET, TWEET: @FasanoMike: Can’t redraw 8 without redrawing most. No doubt now many termed out Tally Legislators getting ready to file.

TWEET, TWEET: @MaryEllenKlas: I’m thinking #CorrineBrown and #FLGOP aren’t real happy with House staffer Alex Kelly for the east-west district the court has ordered up.


“There have been 3 US Supreme Court rulings on redistricting since the Legislature originally drew it’s plan. There is no way to know how these rulings will be considered by the Legislature in their special session, if they consider them at all. However it is important to note that all 3 of these opinions were cited in today’s ruling. One of them, Shelby County v Holder, basically removed the pre-clearance requirement for 5 of our counties (Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough, Monroe) which were considered “covered jurisdictions” under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Six of the 8 districts in this opinion are drawn to consider the unique requirements these 5 counties once were under.

“It’s also important to note that the court has once again declared that it will not draw the map itself by expressing “every confidence that the Legislature… will conduct itself in a manner that will fulfill the purpose of the Fair Districts Amendment.”

“… The bottom line today is that the legislature’s interpretation of this ruling is what we will all be waiting to hear as it’s the only one that will matter, at least for now.”


Crist is strongly considering a political comeback in 2016 now that a new state Supreme Court ruling nearly guarantees that a swing congressional seat will be redrawn to rope in his home along with a gaggle of Democrats, sources tell POLITICO.

The court ruling could also force Rep. David Jolly, the incumbent Republican of the district in question, to forgo a reelection bid and instead try his luck with an open Senate seat. Even before the Florida Supreme Court decision, Crist allies say, the former governor was mulling whether to run for the 13th Congressional District — but only if Jolly decided not to run for reelection.

But now that the district could include his home and become more Democratic, many expect Crist would file even if Jolly stayed put and ran for reelection.

“The seat would be tailor-made for Charlie,” said Orlando-based trial lawyer John Morgan, Crist’s longtime friend, financial backer and employer. “[…] I would say it’s far more likely than not he would run for the seat if the seat came to him. The math is there.”

Crist would not comment for this story.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court surprised Florida’s political insiders by ordering that Jolly’s district be redrawn in conjunction with the 14th District, which revolves around Tampa and is just across the water of Tampa Bay.

The problem with the two districts, the justices ruled, was that the GOP-led Legislature cut out the heavily black Democratic-leaning sections of south St. Petersburg, at the edge of the Pinellas County peninsula, and shoved them into Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor’s district in Tampa in another county, Hillsborough.

“The enacted configuration of these two districts, which crossed Tampa Bay, added more Democratic voters to an already safely Democratic District 14, while ensuring that District 13 was more favorable to the Republican Party,” the court ruled. “Because the Legislature cannot justify its enacted configuration of these districts … Districts 13 and 14 must be redrawn to avoid crossing Tampa Bay.”

TWEET, TWEET: @MarcACaputo: So why’d FLGOP cut out South St. Pete from CD13, where registered R=37% D=34% & I=29%? Cuz in South St. Pete R=15%; D=64% I=23%


(I)f one can read the tea leaves from an email issued by Pinellas County state Sen. Jack Latvala on Thursday afternoon, the judiciary may once again rule against the Legislature, creating potential chaos in some legislative races next year.

Latvala was re-elected to his Senate District 20 seat last November, easily defeating Libertarian candidate Tony Caso. It was to be his last four-year term in the Legislature, where he still retains hopes of becoming Senate president in 2017.

But in an email issued to some contributors on Thursday evening obtained by Florida Politics, Latvala is predicting that the court may very well call on a number of Senate districts also to be redrawn, and says he may have to run in a new district in 2016.

“I thought that last November would be my last election for the Senate,” Latvala writes. “However, it becomes apparent that the effort to win even a third set of new Senate districts in the courts is serious and demands our attention. That process will play out in the courtroom over the next several months and if the Supreme Court gets involved could last even until the qualifying period in June. Good preparation has always been the key to my political success. Therefore, I believe I should be prepared for the possibility that new districts may result and that I will have a campaign again in 2016.”

Not only is Latvala predicting that the High Court will be in favor of the League of Women Voters and call on a number of Senate districts to be redrawn, but said that the Florida Division of Elections has permitted him to reopen a campaign account for a 2016 run. “I would appreciate your financial support for that account as we prepare for whatever challenges we might have to face,” he writes.

Potentially the court ruling could very much affect Jeff Brandes’ Senate District 22 seat, which contains a part of South Tampa while residing mostly in southern Pinellas County.

The trial on the Senate maps is slated for September in Leon County Court.


Is it time to take redistricting out of the hands of the Florida Legislature?

Rep. Dwight Dudley thinks so, especially in light of a Thursday ruling by the Florida Supreme Court that will require lawmakers to redraw eight congressional districts before the 2016 election.

In the next state legislative session — for which committee meetings begin in September — Dudley will propose that district maps for Congress, as well as the state House and Senate be drawn up by an independent commission.

“Instead of voters choosing their elected officials, it has been the elected officials who have chosen their voters,” he said in a statement. “Despite a clarion call from the people to end gerrymandering and restore fairness to the redistricting process, the Florida Legislature has continued to engage in misdirection and skullduggery.”

Other states have made similar decisions in an effort to keep politics out of the process that results in district maps. Notably, Arizona’s commission was recently upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Similar proposals to Dudley’s have been announced before. This spring, Rep. Evan Jenne and Sen. Dwight Bullard introduced legislation to create a redistricting commission. It never had a single committee hearing in the House or Senate.

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… Bush raised $114.4 million in the first six months of the year to fuel his White House ambitions, a historic amount that takes full advantage of the nation’s evolving campaign finance laws. No candidate for president has benefited from so much money so early in a campaign, and the total is sure to eclipse the fundraising of each of the other 16 major competitors for the Republican nomination.

The former Republican governor of Florida is taking a unique approach to a presidential bid, delegating many operations to an affiliated group that is free of limits on how much money a traditional campaign can raise from individual donors.

The affiliated group, a super PAC called Right to Rise, has been active since January. Run by a trusted Bush strategist, it said … it had raised $103 million between January and the end of June.

Right to Rise is not subject to the limits placed on donors to Bush’s campaign, and he spent the past six months traveling the country to attend fundraisers for the super PAC. The suggested donation at Right to Rise events was often as much as $100,000.

The rest, $11.4 million, came to Bush’s formal campaign in the 16 days between its kickoff and the end of June. Contributions to the formal campaign are limited to checks of no more than $2,700 for the primary and general election.

That amounts to an average of roughly $710,000 a day, which the campaign touted as more than the $562,000 per day average raised by Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton since she launched her campaign April 12. Clinton’s campaign haul in that time totaled $45 million.

TWEET, TWEET: @NicholsUprising: Jeb Bush has raised $114M since the start of this 2015. As a comparison, when Bush’s dad won 1988 race, he spent just $31.4M on ads.

FLORIDIANS SPOTTED at a gathering of Bush’s major bundlers (in exchange for gathering $27,000 worth of donations in the first 15 days of the campaign, donors were rewarded with an “evening picnic” with Bush and his parents, former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, and a morning “political and campaign briefing” with senior campaign officials.) at Walker’s Point in Kennebunkport: George LeMieux, Bob MartinezAdam Putnam, Jack Latvala, Wilton Simpson, John Rood, Marty Fiorentino, Tom Feeney, David Browning, Clark Smith, Al Cardenas, Sara and Slater Bayliss, Chuck and Sue Cobb

BUSH’S NEW CHALLENGE: HOW TO SPEND $114 MILLION via Steve Peoples and Julie Bykowicz of the Associated Press

He helped raise the money, but Bush has no direct control over 90 percent of his new haul. The total announced Thursday includes $103 million raised by Right to Rise, a super PAC that will support Bush in the crowded GOP contest. The rest, $11.4 million, came into Bush’s formal campaign.

By law, the super PAC can’t take direction from Bush’s Miami-based campaign, and the two operations have limits on how they can communicate.

Based in Los Angeles, Right to Rise will handle a huge part of the costly work of running for president, including buying TV, online and radio commercials, conducting polling and even doing some organizing tasks such as voter outreach in early primary states. Bush’s official campaign and its markedly smaller bank account will pay for his travel and employee salaries, and give him a pot of money from which to craft messages exactly as he sees fit.

Designed with longtime aides Sally Bradshaw, who now leads the campaign, and Mike Murphy, who now leads the super PAC, it’s a strategy untested in modern politics.


Me on June 18: “Has Jeb Bush got his mojo back mojo back

POLITICO on July 9: “Jeb’s summer surge

TOO LIBERAL, DIVISIVE TO WIN SENATE SEAT? ALAN GRAYSON SAYS NO via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press

Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson entered the race to replace Sen. Rubio on Thursday with some points he wants to make for the people who think he’s an inflammatory, Republican-hating liberal who’s too divisive to win a statewide election.

First, he said he is more successful than anyone else in Congress at working across political aisles to pass legislation.

Second, he said Florida Democrats are unsuccessful at the polls because there haven’t been any real Democrats to inspire them to vote, and he’s a real Democrat.

Third, he has an enormous donor base and can reach more people through social media than any other candidate, Republican or Democrat.

“There is a Grayson movement. There are over 100,000 people who have contributed to our campaign,” Grayson said. “I saw from the opposing campaign that they bragged about the fact that they had 3,000 contributors in their last quarter. We have 3,000 contributors in single 24-hour periods.”

Democratic Party leaders in Florida and Washington have concerns that Grayson is too outspoken and liberal to win the general election for the seat Rubio is giving up to run for president.

“In the 47 years I’ve been in Florida, I honestly don’t remember the last time a liberal was elected statewide,” said Broward County Democratic Party Chairman Mitch Ceasar. “History has not been kind to Democratic liberals in Florida.”

TWEET, TWEET: @BSFarrington: Rep. @AlanGrayson has changed his website from to


Republican Ron DeSantis: “I welcome Congressman Grayson to Florida’s Senate race. Alan is a true liberal who combines inflammatory rhetoric with militant leftism. Alan Grayson says his Senate campaign will ‘live to the end of time,’ but I imagine that Florida voters will be so dissatisfied with his history of supporting tax stiff hikes, ObamaCare and cuts to our military, that Alan’s campaign will, in his own words, ‘die quickly.'”

Ian Prior, American Crossroads Communications Director: “Washington Democrats may be recoiling in horror as Alan Grayson enters the Florida Senate race, but American Crossroads welcomes him with open arms. Democrats up and down the ticket in Florida are going to have to answer for everything Grayson says; even more so if this dyed-in-the-wool liberal and Democrat version of Todd Akin ultimately defeats the manicured opportunist and former Republican Patrick Murphy.”


In fact, they began even before Grayson announced his campaign … some voters — at least in Miami — were robo-polled by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling firm about Grayson and Murphy, his chief rival for the 2016 Florida Senate nomination.

PPP won’t disclose which private client it’s working for. But the poll tried to gauge which messages — read: attacks — resonate against the two congressmen.

Questions about Grayson asked in detail about his messy divorce and about the possibility that his girlfriend might run for his Orlando House seat. Questions about Murphy asked about his being a former Republican.

The strongest barbs will surely be coming soon to a TV near you.


Former State Representative Ricardo Rangel … has filed to run for the House of Representatives in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

“I’m running because I want to represent the people. I feel that with my military background and knowledge and working overseas with tactical information, I can accomplish a lot.” Rangel said … “I can bring a lot of knowledge to the education system, we’re bogging down our teachers and students with too much testing, there has to be a better way to provide accountability and service for them. I also want to provide economic development initiatives to bring higher paying jobs to the community here as well.”

Rangel served in the House of Representatives from for one term from 2012 to 2014. He’ll be running in the left leaning 9th district which consists of parts of Orange and Osceola counties. The region also has a heavy Hispanic population, whose support during a Presidential election cycle is essential for potential candidates. Rangel joins Valeree Crabtree as the 2nd Democrat to file. Others currently considering a run in the 9th district include former State Senator Darren Soto, and Grayson’s District Director Susannah Randolph. Rumored Republican candidates include Kissimmee City Commissioner Wanda Rentas.

“I’m not a talker. I’m a go-getter and I like to get things done. For me my record has always spoken for itself. The people in the community know that if they vote for me, they’re going to get someone that works for them and not anyone else” said Rangel.

MIKE LA ROSA OPENS THE DOOR FOR CONGRESSIONAL BID via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News

La Rosa … is exploring running for Grayson’s seat despite the district leaning Democratic. La Rosa was first elected to the Florida House in 2012 and served as part of the leadership as deputy majority whip. He currently is the vice chairman of the Regulatory Affairs Committee and the Economic Development & Tourism Subcommittee.

“As a family man and a small business owner here in the Ninth Congressional District, I know firsthand that the people of this district have had failed representation on the federal level under Alan Grayson,” La Rosa said on Thursday before turning his fire towards the new Senate candidate.

“Alan Grayson’s disruptive style hurt people, hurt families and resulted failed leadership for our area,” La Rosa said. “Grayson will not be missed. As someone who also represents many of the people of the Ninth District, over the next several weeks, I will pray with my family, and discuss with my supporters, the possibility of running for this open seat. As I have in the state Legislature, I want to represent the good people of Osceola and Orange County with a middle-of-the-road approach and fairness for all the people who deserve much better than Grayson and his failed representation.”

BILL NELSON SAYS HE HAS PROSTATE CANCER, HAVING SURGERY via Stephen Ohlemachxr of the Associated Press

Nelson announced Thursday that he has prostate cancer and will have surgery on Monday.

The cancer was discovered early during a routine medical exam, Nelson’s office said in a statement. Extensive scans showed no evidence that the cancer had spread.

The 72-year-old Democrat the diagnosis does not affect his plan to run for re-election in 2018. He said he had no symptoms.

“I’ve been blessed with good health, which has allowed me the great privilege of public service, and I look forward to continuing serving our country and Florida,” Nelson said.

Nelson is in his third term in the Senate. He also served six terms in the House representing Orlando and the Space Coast.

In 1986, while Nelson was serving in the House, he traveled into space aboard the space shuttle Columbia.

When detected early, prostate cancer rarely causes death, according to the American Cancer Society.

Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, underwent prostate surgery in June after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He said the surgery was a success.

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TWEET, TWEET: @Eric Jotkoff:@EricJotkoff: Is it me or does @FLGovScott’s twitter make him seem completely out of touch w/what is happening? A political earthquake & Gov says nothing?


Scott is ordering an independent analysis of the state’s prison system and the development of two prisons to test new ways of handling and housing prisoners with mental health issues, as well as the general population.

Scott issued the order Thursday. He is also directing the Department of Corrections to work with the departments of Children and Families and Juvenile Justice on how to improve mental health services.

The two prototype prisons will be developed at existing facilities.

Florida’s often-criticized prison system is one of the nation’s largest and houses roughly 100,000 inmates. But it’s been under increased scrutiny after suspicious deaths and allegations of cover-ups.

This is the second time this year Scott has issued an order attempting to address problems with the prison.


Gov.  Scott was at Industrial Lighting Products in Sanford … to announce the company was adding 35 new immediate positions, and potentially hundreds more in the coming months.

“We’re here to talk about jobs. I got elected 4 and a half years ago, in a little over that time, we’ve created 879,000 jobs.” said Scott “In the Orlando/Sanford area there have been 44,000 jobs in the last 12 months. We’ve also cut taxes, we cut taxes on your cellphone, your TV bill, textbooks, we’re putting all that money back into your pocket. This company has been doing a great job.”

Industrial Lighting Products focuses its business on manufacturing lighting products for a variety of commercial applications, they currently have more than 100 employees, produces more than 10,000 fixtures per month, and currently occupies a 40,000 square foot state of the art manufacturing facility with that is expected to be expanding in the future.

Other elected officials on hand included State Representative Jason Brodeur … Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett, Seminole County Commissioners Lee Constantine, and John Horan, as well as State Representative Scott Plakon … whose 29th District consists of Industrial Lighting Products.


The latest ADP Regional Employment Report credits the Sunshine State with adding 21,400 private sector jobs during the month of June … the report shows Florida’s growth second to only California, which during the same period saw 31,800 private sector jobs created.

ADP estimates an increase of 400 jobs in Florida’s goods-producing sector and an increase of 21,000 jobs in the state’s service-producing sector.

Breaking down by industry: 100 natural resource, mining and construction jobs were created; 300 manufacturing jobs were realized; 4,300 professional and businesses services jobs became a reality, and 5,000 trade, transportation, and utility jobs came into existence.

The June ADP Report’s regional break-down has Florida’s south region gaining the highest number of private sector jobs nationwide, with 94,000 total jobs having been created in June 2015.

Overall, the nation put together 237,000 new private sector jobs during this same time period.

WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS TOUTING — “Florida ports dig deep to draw bigger ships, create jobs” via William Gibson and Doreen Hemlock of the South Florida Sun Sentinel


Scott and the Florida Cabinet will not have to debate the merits of the Confederate States of America when they induct the next class of former soldiers into the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame like they nearly had to do earlier this year.

That’s because the nominating committee responsible for recommending veterans for the honor gave few votes on Thursday morning to either of two former Confederate soldiers that were part of a 31-person pool of candidates this year. Both Edmund Kirby-Smith, whose statue is in the U.S. Capitol Building representing Florida, and William Wing Loring received few than 100 points each in a ranking system in which the top vote getters received more than 260 points.

Instead, eight other veterans were nominated for the Hall of Fame, including former Gov. Lawton Chiles and former U.S. Rep. Charles Bennett of Jacksonville.

Last year the same volunteer nominating council picked three former Confederate soldiers among 8 people sent to the Governor and Cabinet for final approval. But before those names made it there, the state Department of Veterans Affairs removed the names prompting a public debate over whether F Floridians who served in the Confederate States of America should be eligible for the Veterans Hall of Fame, which was officially created in 2011.

That ruling is being protested by groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans. They say by ignoring soldiers who fought for Florida during the Civil War, the state is ignoring a big piece of the state’s history. David McCallister, a commander with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said there is nothing in the law that created the Hall of Fame that said Confederate soldiers would be excluded.


The battle over Medicaid expansion in the Florida Legislature was an intense, emotional issue for many in Tallahassee this year. It was an internecine battle, as House Republicans fought Senate Republicans over expanding health care coverage and a Senate fix to the Low Income Pool program.

At times the battle got personal, with some ascribing less than noble motivations on the part of some Senate Republicans who are directly employed in the health care industry. Those legislators include Senate President Andy Gardiner, Health Care Budget Chairman Rene Garcia and Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean.

Financial reports published this week … list the actual salaries that those officials make in the industry however, and that has Pinellas County state Senator Jack Latvala hopping mad. Particularly the listing of the salary of Julie Galvano, the wife of Manatee County Senator Bill Galvano has irked he veteran lawmaker, who has no direct connection to the medical/hospital industry.

In a statement … Latvala said that it’s time to lay off on ascribing illegitimate reasons why nearly everyone in the state Senate supporting expanding health care (which it should be noted was also strongly supported by the people of Florida).


Corcoran is the most powerful man in Tallahassee most Floridians have never heard of.

In his five years in the Florida House, the Pasco County native has earned a reputation as an outspoken, take-no-prisoners lawmaker willing to fight for what he believes to be right, regardless of how unpopular the decision may be. In fact, the lobby of his Lutz office is lined with framed headlines of critical newspaper editorials calling him names such as “immoral” for his rejection of Medicaid expansion.

“I frame those to remind myself I’m here to serve the constituents and not the press,” Corcoran told 10 News. “The point is to support…what {your constituents) want and sometimes the media doesn’t like that.”

In what was believed to be his first in-depth television interview, Corcoran discussed a number of new initiatives he hopes to introduce as his power continues to grow in the capital, including a constitutional ban on state stadium funding and an overhaul of the earmarks process to prohibit another midnight session where hundreds of millions of dollars for pet projects are slipped into the budget.

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There was something off about Marco Rubio’s yard signs. They were not his. An enterprising staff member had borrowed a few from a local state senator and covered up his name by taping over it with a placard that read “Marco Rubio: A New American Century.”

That sight greeted the 150 or so people here on the outskirts of Des Moines who came to hear … Rubio … at the start of a three-day swing through Iowa this week, his first extended visit to the state that will hold the country’s first presidential nominating contest on Feb. 1, 2016.

Rubio did not actually know when the caucuses will be held. “What exact date is it?” he had asked a crowd of young Republicans about an hour earlier. “February …” A couple of them came to his aid. “First!” they called out.

Iowa is an unplowed field for Rubio and his presidential campaign. He does not have the sizable paid staff that other candidates like Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rick Perry, a former Texas governor, have spent months building. Until this week, he had barely traveled outside Des Moines. He will not

But with the number of Republican candidates growing every week — and some, like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, devoting far more effort to Iowa — the bar grows higher for Rubio to stand out from the pack.

What makes the 2016 Iowa caucuses unique, Republicans here say, is that even if someone with as solid a reputation as Rubio’s makes a favorable mark on voters this week, they might well move on to the next candidate to blow through town next week.

“There’s an old saying: ‘You never get a second chance at a good first impression,’ ” said Terry Branstad, Iowa’s Republican governor. “But even if you make a good first impression, you haven’t made the final sale.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rubio will address the National Right to Life convention in New Orleans, before heading to Nevada for a two-day wing. He will speak at Freedom Fest in Las Vegas Friday evening.

GWEN GRAHAM TOPS $1 MILLION IN FUNDRAISING via Sean Rossman of the Tallahassee Democrat

Graham’s fundraising push for her 2016 campaign has already yielded big numbers.

The first-term congresswoman … raised more than $1 million in the past six months.

“I’m following through on my promise to bring the North Florida Way to Washington, and that’s exciting people across the district,” Graham said. “I’m proud to have the support of Republicans and Democrats who are yearning for leaders in Congress to cross the aisle and get things done.”

Graham, the former chief labor negotiator for Leon County Schools, ousted Republican incumbent Steve Southerland in November.

She’s collected more than 7,800 contributions since January with an average of $12.60 per donation.


Although Castor is one of a handful of Florida congressional Democrats who will see the contours of her district redrawn in the wake of the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling today on redistricting, nobody in Florida politics suspects it will affect’s Democratic Party leanings substantially.

“Florida voters adopted Fair Districts amendments to our Florida Constitution and, today, the Florida Supreme Court reaffirmed that districts need to be drawn to ensure that all Floridians have fair representation.  I agree with their decision,” she said today in a statement.

Castor was first elected to the CD 14 seat in 2006 (when it was called CD 11). At that time, the bizarrely drawn district contained parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, but also a bit of Manatee County as well. Manatee County was removed from her district after redistricting in 2012, but the heavily Democratic leaning part of South St. Petersburg was included, something that the Supreme Court mentioned in their findings today was unconstitutional.

Republicans had said that they included South St. Pete in CD 14 during the 2012 redistricting because they were complying with the Voting Right Act. But the Court ruled today that “the Legislature cannot justify its enacted configuration of these districts based on race – the only justification that was offered – the trial court should have invalidated these districts. Accordingly, Districts 13 and 14 must be redrawn to avoid crossing Tampa Bay.”

Although Castor has yet to earn a Republican challenger next year, she’s not taking the seat for granted. Her campaign said today that she will report “around $800,000″ when campaign finance reports are filed next week.


Let’s Get to Work, the political committee headed up by … Scott … saw contributions slip in June, taking in only $30,500 after a string of six-figure hauls since the start of the 2015 session.

Among the contributions was a $25,000 check from August Anheuser Busch III, the former Anheuser-Busch CEO and great grandson of the company’s founder. A $5,000 check from IT executive Joel Schleicher and a $500 contribution from Julian Fouche rounded out the month. Scott appointed Fouche to the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority in November.

While contributions have slowed compared to the more than $1 million the PAC hauled in back in March, Disney did make a $252,503 “in-kind” contribution in early June. The services stem from the governor’s Economic Growth Summit at Walt Disney World resort last month and include travel, food and beverages.

The committee’s expenditures also slowed in June, with $97,413 heading out. Scott’s preferred political consulting group, On Message, getting $30,000. Miami-based Factor, Inc. got $18,000, Virginia firm National Media Research got $10,000 and Tallahassee shops Haworth Strategies and NG Strategies got $9,467 and $8,000, respectively. The final tally left Let’s Get to Work with $188,462 cash on-hand at the start of July.


June was another month of underwhelming fundraising for former Jacksonville City Councilman Don Redman … He raised $1,020, bringing his not-so-grand total to $3,930. No big-name contributors donated and many contributions were less than $100.

We await his opponent, fellow former Councilman Richard Clark, to report June numbers. He raised a little more than $48,000 through May

Clark has seen some big-name support, including from Michael Munz (who was instrumental in the Lenny Curry campaign), Ed Burr of the Jacksonville Civic Council, local lobbyist Steven Diebenow, a gaggle of Petways, the Jacksonville Kennel Club, Gary Chartrand, and other pillars of the establishment.

Clark does not have a single contribution below $500.


Jason Fischer may be the youngest candidate in the HD 16 race, but the School Board member is flexing serious fundraising muscle … Fischer has raised more than $37,000 during June for the District 16 seat, which includes Mandarin, Baymeadows and most of southeast Duval County. Fischer took in $30,000 for his PAC, Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville, along with over $7,000 for his campaign. Fischer now has now raised more than $132,000 in total.


Incumbent Republican HD 18 state Rep. Travis Cummings has, as of the end of June, approached $85,000 in fundraising, though the vast majority of that came between January and March from PACs as well as agricultural and pharmaceutical companies. Individual contributors are few and far between. Mark Frisch, the owner of the Jacksonville Armada, was one of just two. He gave the full $1,000.

The House member from northern Clay County raised $2,750 in June. In April and May, Cummings raised just $50. Cummings has already spent almost $18,000 on his campaign.


One of the races to watch in the Florida House in 2016 involves Leslie Dougher, the former interim RPOF chairwoman and current chairwoman of the Clay County Republican Party. Dougher filed on July 1, so she has no fundraising reported yet. Her two Republican opponents, however, are slowly but surely building campaign funds.

Bobby Payne raised $4,750 in June to bring his total to $33,450. The Palatka native has received the vast majority of his contributions from Palatka and East Palatka. The other Republican in the race, Katherine Van Zant, is running to succeed her husband Charles, who will be term-limited out. She raised more than $4,600 in June, pushing her across the $30,000 threshold. Van Zant is burning through her money at a rate that is notable this far out; she has spent more than $7,000 in the past three months.


Democrat Edward James III won’t hold yet his first official fundraiser until next week, but that hasn’t stopped him from raising about a thousand dollars a day since he entered the race last month.

James has raised a total of $30,175 according to just-released campaign finance reports, an unusually high figure for a Democratic newcomer.

A majority of that came through James’ New Direction Florida political committee, including a check for $10,000 from former Tampa Bay Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse and prodigious Democratic booster Frank Brunckhorst, who added $5,000 the the PAC’s coffers.

James is seeking to oust incumbent Rep. Ray Pilon, who announced he would seek a final term in the state House after abortively exploring a run for the Senate seat of Sen. Nancy Detert. Pilon’s campaign has not yet posted his June fundraising figures.

Another Republican candidate, Sarasota GOP treasurer Robert Wyatt, has self-financed his own campaign for the seat to the tune of $150,000, but sources say he will withdraw from the race amid pressure from Pilon. He had previously said he would only seek the seat if Pilon drops out.

Reached for comment, James said: “We’re certainly pleased with the support the campaign has received thus far. I think it’s indicative of the fact that folks are looking for a new direction forward in Florida.”


A Naples-area restaurateur filed paperwork Tuesday to replace term-limited Republican Rep.Kathleen Passidomo in House District 106 … Bob Rommel touted his business acumen and vowed to run on a platform of “fiscally responsible, pro-growth economic policies.”

“I’m a strong believer that government should work for its citizens rather than stand in their way,” he said. “We need policies that promote job creation in the private sector so that people are free to pursue their dreams. Those are the things I’ll fight for in Tallahassee.”

Rommel grew up in New Jersey and has lived in the Naples area for 10 years. He owns a pair of Fort Meyers-area restaurants as well as a third in his home state. He is the president of the Caxamabas Republican Club and a member of the Collier County Republican Executive Committee.

Rommel is the second Republican to file for the seat. Georgia Hiller filed for the seat back in January, though her lackluster fundraising numbers won’t provide her much of a head start. Through the end of May, she had raised $1,100.

The race will be Rommel’s first, though he has already cut a check this cycle to House District 80 candidate Byron Donalds. District 80 covers a different stretch of Collier County and is currently held by Republican Rep. Matt Hudson, who is facing off against Passidomo in the Senate District 23 race.


Mike Corcoran, Matthew Blair, Corcoran & Johnson: Almond Tree Nursery; Thorntons Inc.

Ron Book, Kelly Mallette, Ron Book P.A.: Surterra Holdings Inc.


On Context Florida: With all due respect to serious prayer, Peter Schorsch says what is on the mind of every political pundit in the state or anyone who loves reading about Florida politics. As U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-No Filter Whatsoever) enters the race for U.S. Senate, we are thrilled. Yes, we are all bowing our heads and doing a Tim Tebow at our respective desks: “Dear Lord, thank you! Thank you!” When Catherine Durkin Robinson taught high school, several students believed the Confederate flag to be a symbol of Southern pride. They wore it on t-shirts, belt buckles, or flew it from the back of their pickup trucks. Robinson did encourage them, though, to be honest about the reason. “We can’t bend history and change facts to match our ideological view, no matter what Fox News will have you believe,” then she gave them some knowledge. If you want to see how unsophisticated and implacable Republicans can be on race, Chris Timmons says you should have been at the Hillsborough County Charter Review Board (stacked with Republican functionaries) meeting. Bob Sparks says there is great deal of column-inch space and cable television time devoted daily to Donald Trump. His controversial comments are analyzed, dissected and put before other candidates. Grayson, who is in a league of his own for saying outrageous things, is now running in the Democratic primary to succeed Rubio. The Republican field is wide open, but the Democrats now present an opportunity for a Trump-like primary for this seat.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Trimmel Gomes’ newest episode of The Rotunda features a revealing interview with Jennifer Carroll, the first black woman to serve as Florida’s lieutenant governor before stepping down amid an Internet gambling scandal. Carroll tells all including run-ins with the press and behind-the-scenes power struggles with Governor Rick Scott’s former Chiefs of Staff Adam Hollingsworth and Steve MacNamara that forced her to resign.

As Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera prepares to announce whether he plans to ditch the post and run for U.S. Senate, Republican strategist Mac Stipanovich who served as chief of staff under Gov. Bob Martinez, explains the true role of the state’s second in command and why some LGs are busier than others.

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


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: City director of homeless initiatives Doug Logan discusses ongoing efforts to remedy the lingering problem of homelessness in Sarasota.

 Facing Florida with Mike Vasilinda: Tiffany Baylor on the rise of fake service dogs, Karen Parker of the Fish & Wildlife Commission on the “jumping sturgeon” and a Jeb Bush flashback.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Former CFO Alex Sink, political consultant and analyst Chris Ingram, Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith and Times columnist William March.

On Point with Shannon Ogden, on WFCN in Jacksonville: Attorney George Gable of Holland & Knight on the renewal of 1st Amendment protests at the Duval County Courthouse, University of North Florida English professor Bart Welling on Harper Lee’s long-awaited new novel and UNF’s Michael Bender on the recent Florida Supreme Court redistricting decision.

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Anchor Al Reuchel and political reporter Troy Kinsey take a look at how recent developments in Florida courts and campaigns will shape the 2016 electoral landscape.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Orange County Clerk of the Court Tiffany Moore Russell on clerical fallout from the recent SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage and the coming switch from a partisan to non-partisan Clerk on next year’s ballot, analysts Lou Frey and Dick Batchelor discuss the new politics of sam-sex unions and Politifact examines a claim by Gov. Rick Scott on Amendment 1 funding for environmental conservation.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Hosts Steve Vancore and Sean Pittman talk with Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald and attorney Glenn Burhans of Stearns Weaver Miller.


Alabama and Florida State will meet in the 2017 season opener at Atlanta’s new stadium.

The matchup in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game … will meet on Sept. 2, 2017.

It will be the first regular-season college game at the $1.4 billion stadium, which will be home to the NFL’s Falcons and Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United FC. It’s the 10th edition of the kickoff game.

Alabama holds a 2-1-1 advantage against the Seminoles, who won the last meeting in 2007.

The Crimson Tide is 4-0 in the Atlanta game. It will be the first time Florida State has opened a season in Atlanta.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to former Rep. Gary Aubuchon and Beth Gosnell.

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.