Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – July 24

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

SARASOTA GOP STICKS BY STATESMAN AWARD FOR TRUMP via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Donald Trump has twice been named “Statesman of the Year” by the Republican Party of Sarasota. … Sarasota GOP Chairman Joe Gruters has been hearing from party members who want to rescind Trump’s statesman awards.

Gruters’ response: “We would never, ever do anything like that.”

Gruters said that questioning (JohnMcCain’s service was an “unforced error” on Trump’s part. But a picture of Trump still hangs on Gruters’ wall and the statesman label still applies, he said.

To make his point, Gruters recited the following definition of statesman: “A person who exhibits great wisdom or ability in directing the affairs of a government or in dealing with important public issues.”

Trump has proven to be a big draw for the Sarasota GOP, helping the local party raise money and maintain grassroots enthusiasm. A crowd of 1,400 attended the event in May at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall where he received the second statesman award.

Gruters said Trump’s poll numbers show he is “resonating with a lot of voters out there.” He believes the candidate will continue to be a force in the GOP primary despite condemnation over the McCain comments, but “the path is more difficult” now.

“He’s not going away,” Gruters said. “But at the same time I think what that mistake did was kind of remind people why people sometimes stick with the long-term traditional politicians… they’ve learned not to make those type of unnecessary, unforced errors.”

JEB BUSH CALLS ON GOP TO EMBRACE LATINOS, AFRICAN-AMERICANS via the Associated Press

Calling on his party to embrace diversity, former Gov. Jeb Bush declared … Republicans will never win the presidency if they don’t campaign in “every nook and cranny” of the country — especially in Hispanic and African-American communities.

“I’m running to draw people toward our cause rather than push them away,” Bush said during a town hall-style meeting in New Hampshire. “Our message has to be uplifting, positive, hopeful, rather than negative (and) divisive.”

Speaking to a predominantly white audience in northern New Hampshire, Bush said Republicans must campaign in Latino communities. He delivered a brief line in Spanish, as he often does while campaigning. The party’s outreach must also extend to black voters, he said.

GOP officials are working to broaden the party’s appeal beyond older, white voters as the country’s demographics change.

Those efforts have been clouded by recent comments by billionaire businessman Donald Trump, who has risen to the top of polls. Trump referred to Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists when he launched his presidential bid last month. Bush’s wife, Columba, is Mexican, and Bush has said he was offended by Trump’s comments.

The former Florida governor did not mention Trump by name during (the) town hall, but he offered a full-throated defense of the need to broaden the party’s appeal rather than alienating minorities.

BUSH TALKED ABOUT A MEDICARE ‘PHASE OUT.’ DEMOCRATS POUNCED via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Democrats have seized on Jeb Bush’s comments about a Medicare “phase out.” All day Democratic groups have tried to call attention to Bush’s remark … at an Americans for Prosperity event in New Hampshire.

Other Republicans have talked of altering or getting rid of Medicare, but Bush’s prominence in the presidential race makes him a high profile target. Lost in the Democratic attacks is that Bush quickly said that the system would need to be replaced with something else because “they’re not going to have anything.”

A woman asked Bush about it today …

WOMAN: Why are you always attacking the seniors?

BUSH: Well, I’m not. That’s just. Here’s what I said: I said that we’re going to have to reform our entitlement system. We have to.

WOMAN: It’s not an entitlement. I earned it. I paid into it. It’s not an entitlement.

BUSH: It’s an actuarially unsound health care system. It’s actuarially unsound. 50 trillion dollars of debt has been accrued and if we do nothing, that’s the burden that we’re going to place on your children and grandchildren that you’re concerned about and so am I. That’s a fact. Social security is an underfunded retirement system. People have put money into it for sure, and the people that are receiving these benefits, I don’t think that we should touch that. But your children and grandchildren are not going to get the benefits that they believe they’re going to get or that you think they’re going to get, because the amount of money put in compared to the amount of money that the system costs is wrong.

MARCO RUBIO SAYS ‘NO ONE’ RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT HAS MORE EXPERIENCE ON RELEVANT ISSUES THAN HE DOES via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

Rubio took on one of the fundamental questions of his presidential candidacy — whether he’s got enough experience for the job — in a Fox News interview … that asked him to respond to what his one-time mentor Jeb Bush said on the subject.

“I have more experience to be president,” Bush told anchor Bret Baier, in a clip Baier played for Rubio. “We’ve had a president who was gifted, who was charismatic. His name was Barack Obama. There was nothing in his past that could suggest he could fix the things that were broken better for the country right now.”

So, is Rubio like Obama?

“Barack Obama has failed as president because his ideas don’t work. They wouldn’t have worked had he served 50 years in the U.S. Senate,” Rubio said.

“It is true there are people running for president that have lived longer than I have,” he added. “The world is changing, and no one who is running for president has more experience than I do on the issues confronting our country right now.”

Baier pressed Rubio on whether governors’ executive experience better qualifies them to be president. (Rubio has backed former governors Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney in the past.)

“The presidency of the United States is a unique office. It’s not like being a senator, but it’s not like being a governor, either,” Rubio said. “The most fundamental challenge any president will face is the national security challenge. Presidents don’t create jobs…. They put forth policies that create an environment conducive to job creation.”

RUBIO SLAMS IRAN DEAL IN SENATE HEARING via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

Marco Rubio took a break from his presidential campaign … to attend the first congressional hearing over the Obama administration’s negotiated nuclear deal with Iran. In the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rubio addressed Secretary of State John Kerry directly.

“Secretary Kerry, I do not fault you for trying to engage in diplomacy and striking a deal with Iran. I do fault the president for striking a terrible deal with Iran,” Rubio said. He added, “This is your deal,” referring to the administration as a whole, noting that the next president could undo or change it.

“I cannot see somebody just arbitrarily deciding, ‘Let’s go back to where we were,”” Kerry responded. “I don’t think any president would do that.”

FOX NEWS MEMO DETAILS QUALIFYING GUIDELINES FOR THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE via Amy Chozick of the New York Times

As the Republican Party frets about how Donald Trump could affect its first presidential debate, each of the 16 presidential campaigns … received critical guidelines from Fox News, the cable channel that will host and broadcast the August 6 debate.

To qualify for the debate each candidate must place in the top 10 “of an average of the five most recent national polls as recognized by Fox News” by August 4th at 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, according to a memo that Fox News sent to the Republican candidates.

The memo … explained other details, including that all Facebook questions submitted during the debate would be screened by the Fox News editorial team and that each candidate will be assigned a producer during their stay in Cleveland.

Whether the RNC brass wants Trump included or not, his current poll numbers would easily secure him a place under these measurements. Other candidates such as Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina would likely fall short.

The memo also included mundane planning information for the debate which will be moderated by Fox News hosts Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace: Each campaign can bring only one vehicle into the Quicken Loans Arena, where the debate will take place; each campaign will receive 15 credentials for the spin room and 10, including the candidate, for the backstage holding room; qualifying candidates must have filed appropriate FEC paperwork and paid all necessary filing fees.

TEA PARTY EXPRESS ENDORSES RON DESANTIS FOR U.S. SENATE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

The California-based Tea Party Express, which bills itself as the nation’s largest Tea Party political action committee, is endorsing Jacksonville area U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis for U.S. Senate in Florida.

“Complacency with the status quo is one of the most dangerous diseases in Washington, D.C., but it’s a disease the Tea Party activists throughout America would like to cure,” said Tea Party Express Executive Director Taylor Budowich in a prepared statement. “That’s why we worked aggressively in 2012 to help elect Ron DeSantis, and it’s why we remain committed to him in 2016 for his U.S. Senate campaign.”

Budowich goes on to call DeSantis a “hero to Florida’s taxpayers,” and says he’s been “a champion for conservatism.”

While the endorsements may boost DeSantis chances with conservatives in the Senate Republican primary next year, it’s also what makes many Florida Democrats hopeful that he’s the general election candidate next year, believing that his far-right stances will make him unappealing to mainstream voters. Most observers think Carlos Lopez-Cantera or David Jolly, his two other major opponents in the contest (former CIA contractor Todd Wilcox is also in the race), would be more competitive.

The Tea Party Express news release includes quotes from a number of Tea Party members in Florida, including Billie Tucker, a co-founder of the First Coast Tea Party in Jacksonville in 2009.

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RICK SCOTT MEETS WINTER THE DOLPHIN, TOUTS TOURISM NUMBERS via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times

Two of the best-known names in Florida — Scott and Winter the Dolphin — had a face-to-snout … In a brief visit to Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Scott predicted a huge payoff for the $74 million earmarked for tourism funding in this year’s state budget. For every $1 the government spends on its tourism arm Visit Florida, the taxpayer sees a $3.20 return on investment, he said.

Scott touted the success story of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which has seen a tremendous spike in visitors since the release of Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2, feature films based on the stories of rescue dolphins Winter and Hope.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO David Yates said the movies had created an economic impact of over $1 billion for Pinellas County.

The governor returned the compliment to Yates, saying the success of Florida’s tourism industry has been a joint effort between the private and public sectors. When Scott finished … he headed to the outside habitat of two of Florida’s biggest movie stars, Winter and Hope.

Scott spent several minutes petting and visiting with both Winter, who swims with a prosthetic tail, and Hope, who was rescued as a severely dehydrated infant orphan.

AGENCY HEADS APPOINTED BY GOVERNOR LIKELY TO KEEP JOBS via the Associated Press

Two state agency chiefs appear likely to keep their jobs even after a nationwide search for other candidates.

The top spots at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Department of Environmental Protection came open this spring because the Florida Senate refused to confirm appointees chosen by Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott and the three elected members of the Cabinet voted to hold a formal search for the jobs because they were criticized over how FDLE Commissioner Richard Swearingen was initially picked. But after reviewing applicants they voted in June to interview only Swearingen.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, however, said she wanted to interview other applicants for the DEP post held by Jon Steverson.

A spokesman for Bondi’s office said Thursday she had changed her mind. Whitney Ray said that Bondi had done an “extensive review” of people who applied for the job and decided against interviewing other candidates.

SENATE GOP’S NEXT FUNDRAISING ADVENTURE: FISHING IN THE KEYS via Michael Auslen of the Miami Herald

Who wants to take on Senate President Andy Gardiner and Majority Leader Bill Galvano in a fishing tournament? Maybe the better question is who doesn’t want to?

Fresh off a special session to redraw Congressional maps, Florida Senate Republicans will put on a two-day fundraiser tournament in the Keys at Cheeca Lodge and Spa, the latest in a flurry of big-ticket escapades benefitting the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The resort, in Islamorada, bills itself as “a premier destination for serious anglers.” And serious GOP contributors, as well.

In addition to Gardiner … and Galvano … Republican Sens. Lizbeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers, Rob Bradley of Fleming Island, Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, Anitere Flores of Miami, Denise Grimsley of Sebring, Jack Latvala of Clearwater, Tom Lee of Brandon, Joe Negron of Stuart and Wilton Simpson of Trilby.

Several GOP senators are in California this week for a golf fundraiser at Pebble Beach.

DWIGHT DUDLEY LEADS CALL FOR $15 MINIMUM WAGE IN FLORIDA AT ST. PETE RALLY via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

The years-long “Fight for $15″ for fast-food workers received a huge boost … after New York officials recommended lifting pay for thousands of fast-food workers throughout the state.  Meanwhile here in Florida, Miami Democratic state Senator Dwight Bullard has filed a bill (SB 6) this week that would raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

In St. Petersburg, about 20 activists gathered in front of City Hall to seize on the momentum from the New York announcement to call for the same thing here in the Sunshine State.

The Fight for $15 movement in Florida has been led by labor unions, primarily the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1099 … $4.03 hourly minimum wage in 1973 in Florida has more purchasing power than Florida’s current minimum wage of $8.05.

Citing a report from Integrity Florida … that refuted reports that rising wages would kill jobs (but it also said it wasn’t clear that it created them, either), St. Petersburg House Democrat Dwight Dudley told the crowd that the “proof was in- 25 states that increased the minimum wage and gave a living wage, only one state did not improve its economy….This is something that we have to do.”

After the rally though, Dudley admitted that in the GOP-controlled Legislature, the proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 faces long odds. “It’s a tough landscape to navigate, no doubt, because there is such resistance,” he said.

“The Governor likes to talk about ‘let’s get back to work.’ Well, let’s get back to work for a fair wage to be able to afford health care, to be able to afford the necessities of life. That’s what this virtuous battle is all about. Even though the powers that be are well stocked against this effort, you’ve got to begin the battle somewhere and initiate, and that’s what’s happening here today.”

THINK FLORIDA HAS A ‘GRASSROOTS’ ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT? THINK AGAIN. Full story here

A casual observer could think there is a groundswell of grassroots organizations throughout South Florida, each fighting to preserve the Sunshine State’s unique environment. Not so.

Upon closer examination … a “shadowy organization” working to manipulate both citizens and the government through a number of advocacy groups, exerting its own “twisted” agenda under a banner of saving Florida’s environment.

It is an example of manufactured grassroots outrage – a strategy known as “astrotrufing” – that misdirects from its true motives. The Everglades Foundation — led by hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones — has contributed over $6 million since 2009 to groups promoting an “anti-sugar” agenda – often employing duplicate language and policy demands.

The main takeaway is that the two environmental heavyweights serve to create an echo chamber against a single target – U.S. Sugar Corp.

Everglades Trust and The Everglades Foundation, joined by the various groups they bankroll, attempted to pressure the Florida Legislature into purchasing lands owned by the U.S. Sugar Corp. If successful, it would have been a costly and ineffective move, taken under the guise of conservation. Part of the attempt included an aggressive mail campaign attacking several current Florida Representatives.

Although the effort ultimately failed, the movement is starting once again for 2016.

CHAMPIONS OFFER TO SETTLE WITH FAMU IN SON’S HAZING DEATH FOR $8 MILLION via Steven Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel

Lawyers for the family of Robert Champion want $8 million from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University to settle the wrongful-death lawsuit in the fatal hazing of the former drum major … But any payment greater than $300,000 would have to be approved by the Florida Legislature.

The university, Florida’s only publicly funded, historically black college, has 30 days to accept or reject the offer.

Judge Renee Roche considers testimony in handing down sentences today. Three defendants in the hazing death of FAMU band drum major Robert Champion are sentenced today in Orange County Court.

Champion, 26, was beaten to death Nov. 19, 2011, by fellow members of the Marching 100 during a hazing ritual on a bus parked at the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando after the pre-eminent ensemble performed at the Citrus Bowl as part of the Florida Classic weekend with Bethune-Cookman University.

The settlement offer, if accepted, would cover all damage claims arising from the drum major’s death.

Attorney Christopher Chestnut, counsel for Robert and Pamela Champion, the drum major’s parents, rejected a $300,000 settlement offer from the university in 2012, arguing FAMU’s failure to halt hazing in the band created an “institutionalized coercion” that led Champion to submit to a practice he disliked.

FAMU lawyers have insisted the school — and taxpayers — should not be held financially liable because Champion voluntarily participated in the hazing, a violation of state law. Champion, a seventh-year student at FAMU, rose to a leadership position within the band, though he had steered clear of hazing.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Florida Clerks of Court, including Sharon Bock of Palm Beach County, Ken Burke of Pinellas County, Stacy Butterfield of Polk County and Scott Ellis of Brevard County will take part in a panel discussion at the Florida State Guardianship Association (FSGA) Conference beginning 3:30 p.m. at the Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa, 1900 E. Buena Vista Drive in Lake Buena Vista.

FIRST POMPANO CHURCH OF SATAN CREEPS CLOSER TO POMPANO BEACH COMMISSION INVOCATION via Anne Geggis of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

The First Pompano Beach Church of Satan has its Atlantic Boulevard address and its Yellow Pages listing.

A Yellow Pages listing and a Pompano Beach address were two of the requirements that the commission set … in an effort to exclude a self-described minion of Satan from leading the invocation that begins its City Commission meetings. That minion, Chaz Stevens, who is also an activist for separating church and state, says he’s going to challenge the legality of that July 14 resolution.

But in the meantime, he’s set about meeting the commission’s requirements for participating in the tradition that usually brings the city’s Christian pastors before the commission.

Mayor Lamar Fisher said that Stevens will be allowed to lead the invocation, if his church meets the city’s requirements. Other parameters in the resolution say the church should fulfill the Internal Revenue Service’s definition of a nonprofit.

“This is the first I’ve heard of this,” Fisher said on news of the Yellow Pages listing and Pompano Beach location of the “church.”

Pompano Beach Commissioner Barry Dockswell, however, said he has been receiving emails from Stevens advising him on the progress of the church’s establishment in the city — and it’s exactly what he was trying to avoid when he proposed replacing the invocation with a moment of silence.

“I hope we can avoid being dragged into silliness and unnecessary legal expense,” he added.

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PERSONNEL NOTE — SHANNON SHEPP NAMED INTERIM DIRECTOR OF CITRUS DEPARTMENT via Kevin Bouffard of the Lakeland Ledger

The Florida Citrus Commission … unanimously appointed Shannon Shepp the interim executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus.

She’ll likely hold the position for a while because the Citrus Commission, the department’s governing body, did not announce a plan for hiring a new executive director to replace Doug Ackerman, who was forced to resign … after a July 15 DUI arrest. The commission met for about 30 minutes in a teleconference and is not scheduled to meet again until Sept. 16.

Commission Chairman Marty McKenna, a Lake Wales-based grower, said he wasn’t prepared to deal with selecting a replacement because events happened so recently. McKenna asked for Ackerman’s resignation … after learning of the arrest and his absence from work the following two days.

Shepp, 46, came to the Citrus Department in August 2013 as deputy executive director of operations and research, essentially the chief operating officer. She previously worked for 12 years at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, rising to deputy commissioner of agriculture in 2011 under Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Erika Alba, Karen Bowling, Christian Caballero, Jonathan Kilman, Jon Yapo, Foley & Lardner: Florida Emergency Medicine Practice Alliance

Ron Pierce, Edward Briggs, Natalie King, RSA Consulting: Youth and Family Alternatives

Larry Overton, Joel Overton, Larry J. Overton & Associates: South Florida Community Care Network

Madeline Pumariega: Department of Education

Cameron Yarbrough, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: PayMaxs USA

WEEKEND TV

Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Correspondent Duhane Lindo and Sarasota NAACP President Trevor Harvey.
 

Facing Florida with Mike Vasilinda: Highlighting overlooked issues with sea turtle patrollers and guardians, plus a new Jeb Bush flashback.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Former Congressman Jim Davis, political consultant Adam Goodman, NPR media critic Erig Deggans, and Tampa Bay Times reporter Adam Smith.

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

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Anchor Al Reuchel and political reporter Troy Kinsey take a look at Florida redistricting ahead of the August 10 special session. 

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: House Speaker Steve Crisafulli on May’s abrupt Sine Die tactics and looks ahead to Special Session B to redraw Florida congressional districts.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Steve Vancore, reporter Dara Kam and Bob McClure of the James Madison Institute.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

ON CONTEXT FLORIDA: ALAN GRAYSON, FLORIDA SUPREME COURT AND GO SET A WATCHMAN

Today on Context Florida: Supporters and detractors of U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson agree: He’s a lightning rod. The Republican Party of Florida loves this about him because it provides fresh material for attack ads. The Democratic establishment hates it because it screws up the possibility of having a clean, organized, efficient, and mostly boring primary. But politics is supposed to be about passion says Chris Timmons. It is supposed to be fun. The Florida Supreme Court has the final say in all things concerning the Florida Constitution. When it comes to redistricting, says Bob Sparks, they have assumed the lead role in the process. No one, other than a fellow justice, has the clout to tell them they might be exceeding their authority. Catherine Durkin Robinson asks: Did you go out and buy a copy of Go Set a Watchman? Naturally, it is the literary sensation of the summer. But despite critics’ warnings, if you’re a fan and insist on reading it, please don’t let Go Set a Watchman destroy To Kill a Mockingbird for you. Harper Lee’s new book simply makes her old classic, with its youthful optimism and sincerity, that much better.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA

Trimmel Gomes’ newest episode of The Rotunda examines how former Florida governor and presidential contender Jeb Bush plans to tackle “Mount Washington” the same way he claims to have tackled “Mount Tallahassee.” Gomes talks with Florida TaxWatch President & CEO Dominic Collabro and Dr. Ed Moore, president & CEO of the Independent Colleges & Universities of Florida, during Bush’s kick off speech on domestic policy in Tallahassee.

Gomes also talks with former Huffington Post State Politics Reporter and author of The Next Generation: Young Elected Officials and their Impact on American Politics about who’s likely to be in and out after Florida’s congressional-district maps are redrawn and why it might be helpful for other presidential campaigns to get into a fight with Donald Trump.

The Rotunda podcast is available every Friday via iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud. Subscribers receive free automatic downloads of episodes to their devices. Follow on @RotundaPodcast for daily updates.

ALOE TO SOOTHE THE BURN

— The battle against President Snow intensifies in this full trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. Watch here.

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.