Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – July 6

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Sunburn – The never-on-vacation morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

CONGRATS to U.S. Rep. David Jolly and Miss Laura Donahoe wed Friday, July 3 on the steps of the Indian Shores Town Hall in the presence of family. The bride’s father accompanied her to the steps, where the ceremony was officiated by the groom’s father. The Jollys wish to sincerely thank the many friends and well wishers who so graciously offered their congratulations, encouragement, and God’s blessings on their marriage. Via Communications Director Preston Rudie.

BEAUTIFUL PHOTO OF THE NEWLYWEDS here. Photo courtesy of Ryan Joseph.

CONGRATS to Bob Poe and Ken Brown on their nuptials. Spotted in the crowd were several members of the Society of the Tarpon Belt.

EVEN MORE CONGRATS to Florida Politics reporter Janelle Irwin on her engagement this past weekend.

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY ANNIVERSARY to one Florida politics most talented power couples, Alli Liby-Schoonover of Metz Husband & Duaghton and Chris Schoonover of Capital City Consulting.

JULY 4TH WEEKEND birthdays: Our good friend James Kotas, Randy Hanna, Fatima Perez, Van Poole, and Reps. Dan Raulerson and Barbara Watson. Happy birthday today to Rep.-to-be Joe Gruters, Brian Ballard, Susanne Dudley, and Rep. MaryLynn Magar.

DAYS UNTIL: First GOP presidential debate: 30; FSU & UF’s first football games of 2015: 59; Labor Day: 61; First Legislative Committee Meeting: 70; First day of 2016 Legislative Session: 189; Iowa Caucus 210; Super Bowl 50: 216; New Hampshire Primary: 218; Super Tuesday: 229; Florida’s presidential primary: 253; Close of federal candidate qualifying: 305; Florida’s primary elections: 421; 2016 Election Day: 491.

GOP TOP TIER EXPANDS 

Byron York looks at the recent polls and concludes the top tier of GOP presidential candidates “is probably no longer confined to Bush/Walker/Rubio. It might make sense to include Carson in the top tier, and perhaps Huckabee. And if Trump keeps rising after his June 16 announcement, maybe him, too. If a race is going to have 16 candidates, there’s no reason the top tier has to be limited to three.”

The point is, the Republican race is changing. It has at times appeared to settle into a pattern, only to see that pattern change. That’s happening again.

JEB BUSH SAYS HE TAKES DONALD TRUMP’S IMMIGRATION REMARKS PERSONALLY via the Associated Press

Bush says he is personally offended by rival Trump’s recent remarks about Mexico and immigrants and calls the remarks far outside the mainstream of Republican thought.

“I don’t think he represents the Republican Party, and his views are way out of the mainstream of what Republicans think,” Bush told reporters after marching in Fourth of July parades in Amherst and Merrimack, New Hampshire.

“No one suggests that we shouldn’t control our borders – everybody has a belief that we should control our borders,” he said. “But to make these extraordinarily ugly kind of comments is not reflective of the Republican Party. Trump is wrong on this.”

Bush’s wife was born in Mexico, and when he was asked if he took Trump’s remarks personally, he responded: “Yeah, of course. Absolutely. And a lot of other people as well.”

TOP OP-ED — “The hypocrisy of outrage over Donald Trump” via Ana Navarro for CNN.com: “Let us please stop pretending Trump suddenly began being outrageous and offensive June 16, 2015, when he declared his candidacy for president. He has been leading the birther movement against President Obama and frothing at the mouth against immigrants for years. All you have to do is peruse his Twitter feed. He has taken any available platform to wage ad hominem attacks on just about everybody.”

BUSH TO MEET WITH MITT ROMNEY THIS WEEK via Maggie Habermas and Patrick Healy of the New York Times

Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, will travel to the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Me., (this) week for a private lunch meeting with Bush, according to a person briefed on the plans who was not authorized to discuss the meeting.

HOW BUSH’S FIRM MADE HIM RICH — AND CREATED A NEST EGG FOR HIS FAMILY via Matea Gold, Rosalind S. Helderman and Robert O’Harrow Jr. of the Washington Post

A review of the tax forms … show how the former governor maneuvered to minimize his tax bill through Jeb Bush & Associates. The returns show that the company set up a generous and well-funded pension plan now rare in corporate America, allowing Bush to take large tax deductions while he and his wife built up their retirement portfolio. Other interesting items:

More than a third of his company’s income was from sources that his campaign has largely declined to disclose. Bush’s wife, Columba … was collecting an annual salary that averaged about $31,500 — totaling more than $220,000 over seven years … The position she held at the firm is unclear. Bush did not mention his wife’s role during his tax-document release … One of Bush’s first consulting clients was InnoVida, a Miami-based company that marketed prefabricated housing materials for use in disaster zones, whose chief executive was ultimately convicted of fraud.

Half of Jeb Bush & Associates’ income in 2007 came from Lehman Bros., which paid Bush about $1.3 million annually to serve as a consultant, in part because of the global network of contacts he developed as a big-state governor and as the scion of a powerful political family. “He was not a dealmaker,” said an official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly … Bush’s role was akin to that of a global emissary, whose star power appealed to the bank’s clients.

MARCO RUBIO’S AD BUYING PLAN HITS SNAG via Sara Murray of CNN

Rubio‘s plan to buy presidential campaign advertising at a bargain price is hitting a snag: Some television stations are refusing to reserve the airtime.

The GOP presidential candidate planned to reserve at least $10 million in television advertising in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada to air later this year, a Rubio aide said. But a number of Hearst Television stations rejected the Rubio camp’s requests, saying it was too early to estimate available inventory and fair advertising rates, according to Federal Communications Commission filings.

It’s unclear how much of the campaign’s ad buy has been waylaid, but a Rubio adviser said they expect this will only be a temporary setback. “We’re confident this will be resolved in short order,” the adviser said.

At least four stations owned by Hearst Television — including KCCI in Des Moines, Iowa, and WMUR in Manchester, New Hampshire — declined the Rubio camp’s requests to reserve airtime. The other two stations that declined the request cover viewers in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Georgia.

The early announcement allows Rubio to send a forceful signal — to his rivals and to the outside groups supporting him — about his spending plans. But he may not have to actually shell out $10 million. In many cases campaigns can make reservations ahead of time and pay for the spots in full later. The early reservations tend to be more cost effective and make it more difficult for television stations to bump a campaign’s ads into less favorable airtime, several Republican operatives said.

But it appears stations are hesitant to cut early deals with campaigns months before the race heats up.

RUBIO’S DONOR OBSTACLES: A LIMITED BASE AND ANOTHER FLORIDIAN via Jeremy Peters and Ashley Parker of the New York Times

In the nearly three months since he announced that he was running for president …  Rubio has been enjoying his moment. Republicans have talked up his potential. Democrats have called him a threat. He has been in the top tier of many polls. But one of the biggest measures of his success — whether he impresses Republican donors as much as he does the party’s leading operatives and opinion shapers — has been harder to discern.

Rubio has a notable disadvantage in the congested, fragmented field of Republican candidates: He has no natural national base of support to draw on, the way Senator Ted Cruz does with evangelical Christians or Senator Rand Paul does with libertarians.

Rubio has been cut off from some of the financial support he received in his home state, Florida, when it elected him to the Senate in 2010: Many of the wealthy donors who propelled him to national political fame are sticking by Bush.

Bent on mitigating those deficits, Rubio has been on a cross-country fund-raising binge, spending little time meeting voters and far more at dinners and receptions in the homes of an eclectic set of patrons — from Larry Ellison, the software developer who hosted a few dozen barefoot Rubio supporters at his Japanese-inspired compound outside San Francisco, to Rick Harrison, a Las Vegas pawnshop owner best known for his role on the History Channel’s “Pawn Stars.”

In his private appeals for money, Rubio avoids overtly drawing comparisons with Bush. But those who have heard him say that the implied contrast could not be more obvious: He embodies the future of the Republican Party, while Bush represents the past.

“The differences are clear and don’t even really need to be mentioned,” said George Seay, a Dallas investor who has hosted two fund-raisers for … Rubio this year.

— “Marco Rubio’s support suddenly crumbled in a new poll” via Maxwell Tani of Business Insider

BERNIE SANDERS PICKING UP STEAM AGAINST HILLARY – EVEN IN FLA via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Sanders has no entourage or bevy of political advisers … represents a state with half the population of Hillsborough County, and he has long been viewed by the national media as a quaint, fringie — a self-described democratic socialist, of all things! — from the People’s Republic of Vermont.

But contrary to conventional wisdom about the Democratic presidential contest, people are listening to presidential candidate Sanders. A lot of people.

“This is a rigged economy and, brothers and sisters, together we are going to change that,” Sanders, 73, told a crowd of more than 10,000 people in Madison, Wis. …

“He is galvanizing support unlike any candidate I have ever seen, and I’ve been doing this for a while,” said Mike Fox, a St. Petersburg resident and national organizer for the political group Progressive Democrats of America, which is independently helping Sanders.

The Sanders campaign has no presence in Florida, concentrating instead on the early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire and generating national attention, buzz and enthusiasm with appearances in liberal bastions like Austin and Madison.

Grassroots Sanders supporters are still mobilizing across the Sunshine State. In Tampa Bay, nearly 80 people attended a Sanders event June 22 in Tampa, while former Pinellas Democratic Chairman and St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Ed Helm last weekend hosted about 50 people at his home. They saw a Skype presentation from one of Sanders’ aides in Vermont.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Bright House Networks, a trusted provider of industry-leading communications and networking services to businesses of all sizes, from startups to large, multi-site organizations. Our Enterprise Solutions provides the fiber connectivity, cloud and managed services  today’s large organizations demand, while our Business  Solutions team works with small- to mid-size companies to ensure they get the right services to fit their needs and their budget. Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Bright House Networks. Learn more at brighthouse.com/business.***

EYEING SENATE BID, CARLOS LOPEZ-CANTERA MUST DECIDE WHETHER TO STAY OR GO via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

After 18 months in … Scott’s shadow, Lt. Gov. Lopez-Cantera has to make his first big decision.

Before he enters Florida’s wide-open race for the U.S. Senate, he’ll reach a political crossroads as the state’s No. 2 executive: Should he stay or go? Lopez-Cantera won’t say, and the public probably would not notice the difference.

He’s not required to immediately resign his $125,000-a-year state job to run for another office, but … he faces a number of potential problems if he doesn’t cut ties with Scott. Lopez-Cantera’s opponents already are accusing him of campaigning on the taxpayers’ dime, a charge he denied when he met recently with a Broward County commissioner and insisted they didn’t talk about the Senate race.

He could take a stand as a Republican that conflicts with Scott’s scripted message, putting him in hot water with his boss. Scott has told friends he’s eyeing Florida’s other U.S. Senate seat in 2018.

Lopez-Cantera also would be forced to defend Scott’s decisions whether he agreed with them or not, including a recent rash of budget vetoes that disproportionately hit his home county of Miami-Dade.

History shows that since the office of lieutenant governor was restored in the modern Constitution of 1968, four of its 10 occupants tried to use it as a stepping stone to higher office. All four failed. The latest, Jeff Kottkamp, ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in 2010 when it wasn’t very popular among Republican voters to have been Gov. Charlie Crist‘s sidekick.

RANDY FINE DROPS SENATE BID AMID CONSULTANT CRITICISM via Matt Dixon of POLITICO

Republican Brevard County businessman Randy Fine has taken himself out the running for U.S. Senate, amid a quarrel with a prominent Republican consultant.

Fine, who founded a casino management company, says he is no longer considering a statewide race because he wants to focus on a statehouse race he is already filed for … he decided not to run because he wanted to go ahead with the statehouse race.

“I tend to follow through on things I commit to,” said Fine, who said in an interview that it had been “flattering” to be asked by people to consider a U.S. Senate bid.

But Fine’s version of events was disputed by GOP communications pro Brian Hughes, owner of the firm Meteoric Media Strategies … at the suggestion of Hughes and his frequent collaborator Tim Baker of Gainesville-based firm Data Targeting that Fine began considering the Senate bid.

But, Hughes said, “Shortly thereafter it became clear his vulnerabilities and weaknesses became too strong to undertake the race he wants to take on.”

Told of Hughes’ comment, Fine said, “I’m sure that the political consultants who thought they could make millions of dollars off of me if I ran from the Senate are disappointed. But they did not have anything to do with my decision.”

Fine, 41, will now continue his bid for the Brevard County statehouse seat held by term-limited state Rep. John Tobia of Melbourne Beach. He said he wants to focus on state-level issues, especially education reform.

FUNDRAISING PUSHES ALAN GRAYSON TOWARD SENATE RUN via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Grayson raised $110,000 in 24 hours off an email asking people if he should run for Senate … as of 9 a.m., $133,000.

“You are a supporter. That’s why I send you these notes. Now, I need to ask you an important question,” he wrote in a message … “Should I run for the U.S. Senate?

“I’ve been thinking about this decision for a long time.

“If I do decide to try to join Elizabeth Warren and other good Progressive Democrats in the Senate, I need to know that I have your support.

“If you think that I should run, please let me know, by contributing $20, $50, $100, $250 or even $500 today.”

Grayson … has shown fundraising prowess before and would enter a race featuring fellow congressman Patrick Murphy, who has been racing to gain establishment support and money.

Grayson is expected to make a decision early this month.

MY TAKE: IS GRAYSON A VICTIM OF THE MSNBC PROTECTIVE CLOAK? Full story here

The problem with both FOX News and MSNBC is that they provide an ongoing – and false – sense of security to partisans. Guests, especially those in line with the partisan philosophy of the station or host, get to swing at easy pitches and, to mix my sports metaphors, it’s like they are always on the court facing the Washington Generals.

Is that what we are now seeing from MSNBC darling, Alan Grayson?

The outspoken liberal Congressman has hidden within the cozy confines of the far left media for so long it’s becoming increasingly clear that he is not quite prepared for the bigger stage … POLITICO’s Matt Dixon whacked the bejesus out of Grayson with the no holds barred story titled, “Alan Grayson hedge funds skirts ethics rule.” POLITICO specifically chose not to hedge their bets with a “Grayson may have skirted” headline and instead tried and convicted him in the same story. Ouch!

His “these are smart people” defense, coupled with the notion that he has no “fiduciary duty” to the trusts that clearly have his name on them is flat out bizarre.

POLITICO didn’t just swing; they swung hard. Dixon and company cited several highly qualified experts in the area who called absolute B.S. on Congressman Grayson’s answers. One said Grayson’s response was “complete nonsense” and another who said it was “absolutely incorrect.” Again, ouch!

At least the good news for Grayson is he seems to be getting a little better. Last time we got a sniff of Grayson’s media savvy, he was tossing around expletives and calling a reporter a “shitting robot” … That’s my point.

Grayson … has suffered from being too protected in a media safe zone and it is hurting his ability to handle real punches … he needs to recognize that he is no longer protected by the sheltered confines of Rachel Maddow’s shadow. This won’t be easy because, let’s face it, ranting on about how the GOP wants old people to die is all fun and games when your host nods in vigorous agreement.

PIC DU JOUR here of U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham vacuuming the floors at the Sugar Sands Inn and Suites Hotel in Panama City Beach as part of her latest “workday.”

MELISSA MCKINLAY RAISES $180,000, REBECCA NEGRON RAISES $175,000 IN CONGRESSIONAL RACE via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Democratic Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay’s campaign says she topped $180,000 in contributions in her first seven weeks as a candidate in the crowded and nationally watched race to replace Rep. Patrick Murphy … Republican Rebecca Negron raised about $175,000 in the quarter …

McKinlay, who opened her campaign in May, is one of four Democrats seeking the seat Murphy is leaving to run for U.S. Senate … Negron, a Martin County School Board member and the wife of influential state Sen. Joe Negron … opened her campaign in April. She raised all her money from contributors rather than personal funds, her campaign said.

Six Republicans so far have announced bids in Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 … Carl Domino, the Republican who lost to Murphy by 19.6 points last year, said he has put $200,000 of his own money into a 2016 campaign … St. Lucie County Commissioner Tod Mowery, who opened a Republican campaign May 15, said he raised about $85,000.

Afghanistan war veteran Brian Mast, a Republican who entered the race in June, said he exceeded his personal goal of $20,000 for the quarter, but wouldn’t say by how much. Republican Paul Spain, who lost to Rep. Lois Frankel … last year and plans to run in District 18 in 2016, said he won’t begin fundraising until August or September.

DEMOCRAT DARDEN RICE WON’T RUN IN CD 13 via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Less than two weeks after announcing that she was considering entering the Democratic primary for Congressional District 13, Darden Rice has chosen to remain in her St. Petersburg City Council seat, and will not enter the contest after all.

In a statement … Rice wrote that after taking the time to consider the possibility of running, she has decided not to enter the race because of two main considerations:

“First, my deep-seated love for St. Pete and the wonderful people that call it home. Second, the incredible opportunities to make our city even better.”

Last weekend, Eric Lynn, the only declared Democrat in the race to oppose GOP incumbent David Jolly next year, stunned local observers by announcing that he had raised more than $400,000 in his first three months as a candidate.

But Rice tells Florida Politics that Lynn’s fundraising prowess is not the reason she has decided not to run for higher office.

“Lynn’s $ numbers did not keep me out,” she wrote in a text message. “I have name recognition and a proven ability to raise money.”

She also says that an upcoming decision by the Florida Supreme Court regarding a legal challenge to the Legislature’s redistricting maps did not play a part in her decision.

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN — FLORIDA DEMCRATS PLOT A PATH TO RELEVANCE via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times 

The rallying cry was familiar at Lynn’s congressional campaign kickoff last month in St. Petersburg. Florida Democrats don’t win elections with their wallets, said Pinellas party chair Susan McGrath. “We win elections on the ground.”

When Democrats have succeeded in Florida, they have relied on grassroots organizing. It was a cornerstone of the twice-successful Barack Obama election machine, and party officials see it as the best way to counter deep-pocketed Republican opponents.

But grassroots organizers need a cause to champion and a solid candidate to back. And for most of the past two decades, the Democrats have had neither, the losing campaign trail littered with unfocused messages and uninspiring candidates.

In November 2014, despite holding a voter registration advantage of 400,000 over Republicans, Democrats sank to new lows. They lost six seats in the Florida House and failed to unseat Republican incumbent Rick Scott, one of the nation’s most unpopular governors.

In June, state Democrats released a task force report to try to account for the shellacking, doubling down on the importance of grassroots efforts.

“Those who volunteer to knock on doors or make phone calls to spread the word about Democratic candidates are the heart and soul of our party,” reads the report of the committee co-chaired by Sen. Bill Nelson and retired Orlando police Chief Val Demings.

Also central to the party’s success: turning out voters. But in 2014, just 6 million people voted in the race for governor, a decline of 2.5 million from the Obama-driven 2012 turnout.

That lack of turnout shows how the state party’s grassroots campaign efforts are failing. Scott lost the Hispanic vote in 2014 by the same margin as Mitt Romney in 2012, but that Democratic-leaning demographic composed just 13 percent of the vote in the governor’s race, compared to 17 percent in the presidential race. Overwhelmingly Democratic African-Americans held firm as a percentage of state voters in 2014, but declined in number from 2012. Meanwhile, the white percentage of the vote, a Republican-leaning demographic, rose from 67 percent to 69 percent. In an election decided by 64,000 votes, every advantage mattered.

TWEET, TWEET: @SaintPetersBlog: Someone at @TB_Times writes this story every 2 years, but nothing changes.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a bill signing ceremony for a new spring training complex for the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros at 9:00 a.m. in the Palm Beach County Governmental Center, 301 North Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach.

BACKGROUND — “Florida legislature passes bill to allow Nationals and Astros to move forward with West Palm Beach facility” via Jessica Janes of the Washington Post

RICK SCOTT HAS SPENT NEARLY $300,000 ON POLITICAL CONSULTANTS SINCE APRIL via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times

For someone who cannot seek re-election … Scott is spending a whole lot of money on political consultants, adding fuel to speculation that he is aiming to run for the U.S. Senate in 2018.

This week, Scott’s Let’s Get to Work political fundraising committee reported paying $26,000 to a pair of political consulting firms, one in Miami that specializes in Hispanic outreach and the other based in Tallahassee. With that, Let’s Get to Work has now spent $292,616 on eight different political consulting firms just since April 1 on a wide range of services, including work on surveys, research, advertising and general consulting.

Scott has told some big political donors that he is interested in running for the Senate in 2018. But publicly, Scott has brushed off the questions by the media about his political future. Asked in April about running for the Senate, Scott did not directly answer.

The amount of money Scott is spending on political consultants this early and with no declared future office ambition is unprecedented … What specifically those consultants are working on is not clear.

Scott’s term runs through 2018, and he cannot seek re-election because Florida law limits a governor to two consecutive four-year terms in office … 2018 also happens to be when U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will be completing his third term in office and facing re-election.  … Nelson has had huge victories and Scott’s approval ratings have been anemic, but the governor has proven he can win tight contests in Florida even with low marks from Florida voters … though Nelson has won easily in his re-elections, he has benefited by running against flawed GOP opponents who struggled to win support of their own party and raise money.

One reason for all the consulting help … could be Scott looking for strategies to improve his poll ratings with Floridians to take on Nelson. Quinnipiac University … released a survey last month that showed 49 percent of Florida voters disapprove of how Scott has handled his job, despite the state’s unemployment rating dropping during his tenure as governor. For Nelson, on the other hand, just 27 percent disapproved of his job performance.

SCOTT STILL HASN’T SAID WHETHER HE’LL SIT DOWN WITH SEMINOLES OVER BLACKJACK DISPUTE via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune

More than a week after the Seminole Tribe of Florida asked … Scott to return to the bargaining table on keeping blackjack at its casinos, the governor still has not responded.

That’s not surprising, said one legislative leader, since the governor has let lawmakers take the lead on dealing with the tribe.

Meanwhile, a clock keeps ticking that brings the two sides closer to a mandatory resolution of their differences in a federal court … the tribe sent a letter to Scott giving him 30 days to enter into dispute resolution, a precursor to mediation and a possible lawsuit, because there was no deal on continued blackjack and payments from that gambling to the state.

The stakes are significant for both sides: The Seminoles’ casinos include the Seminole Casino Hotel in Immokalee and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, which alone generates more than $1 billion yearly.

In exchange for giving the tribe exclusive rights to offer blackjack in Florida, the state gets more than $200 million in payments yearly.

Tribal representatives and state officials must meet and confer within 30 days under federal Indian gambling law. After that, the tribe can seek mediation or can sue 60 days later. A previous agreement says the tribe must break down its card tables within 90 days if a new agreement isn’t signed.

ADAM PUTNAM’S PLEA FOR PRE-VETO FACE TIME WITH SCOTT WAS IGNORED via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Here’s yet another backstory on … Scott’s budget vetoes, and this one could definitely give Scott headaches at future Cabinet meetings. As the budget time clock was ticking, Scott and his staff dissed Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who simply wanted to make his case for agency projects.

It began to unfold on Friday, June 19. As the Legislature was passing a budget, ending a three-week special session, Putnam immediately sought face time with the governor to argue his case for spending priorities. “I request a meeting with you at your earliest convenience,” Putnam wrote.

Putnam’s office hand-delivered a detailed letter to Scott asking for “careful consideration” of his priorities, including $4.5 million for water-farming projects, $3.7 million to replace a dilapidated petroleum lab at Port Everglades and $2,000 raises for state forestry firefighters.

Not only did Putnam not get the meeting he wanted, but the request was ignored, and four days later Scott vetoed all three requests, among others.

“We never received a response,” said Putnam’s spokeswoman … Even though Scott signed the budget four days later, and a week earlier than required by law, his spokeswoman said there wasn’t enough time.

MEANWHILE, WHILE THE FIREWORKS WENT OFF, THIS STORY WENT LIVE — SEXUALLY TRAFFICKED GIRL RECOUNTS LITANY OF HORRORS UNDER DCF’S WATCH via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald

Neglect and abandonment landed the girl in foster care. But it’s what happened next, she said, that nearly destroyed her.

In a hushed courtroom in Miami’s gleaming new downtown Children’s Courthouse, a teenage foster child inventoried the traumas she had endured at the hands of those who were assigned to protect her: She had been starved and beaten, molested and forced to fight during her two years in foster homes and group care. As a runaway, she was trafficked into prostitution.

And, just as her life appeared to be mending, the girl was raped by a driver in whose care she was entrusted by a privately run child welfare group, records say. Earlier this week, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia allowed the girl to read a long letter in court, detailing her many grievances against the state.

The Department of Children & Families “has messed me up mentally and emotionally. I know I can never get my childhood back,” the girl said in court …. “But I refuse to let my past take my future.”

The teen, who is not being identified by the Herald to protect her privacy, came into state care in the winter of 2013. Records say her parents abandoned her, which left mental and emotional scars. In her remarks to the court on Monday, the girl did not talk in detail about what sent her to foster care. “By the age of 14, I had already been through the worst,” she said, adding: “so I thought.”

As to what followed, the girl had plenty to say. “Since my involvement in DCF, I have always been a throwaway case, and I knew it. I personally didn’t think I’d even make it.”

TALLAHASSEE 9-YEAR-OLD SECURES $1 MILLION IN FUNDING FOR THE BLIND via Sean Rossman of the Tallahassee Democrat

Paloma Rambana knows how lucky she is. Her parents, Neil St. John Rambana and Elizabeth Ricci, can afford to pay out-of-pocket for a vision teacher, magnifiers and a hand-held reader she’s named Lucille. The 9-year-old from Tallahassee was born with Peter’s Anomaly, a rare condition that causes an opacity in the corneas, leaving her legally blind.

But instead of standing by, she’s fighting for children like her who don’t have the same tools. Through her work, a $1 million allocation for blind services evaded Gov. Scott’s veto pen and will now benefit children her age.

Paloma roamed the halls of the Florida Capitol in March, pushing legislators to set aside $3 million for underfunded Florida Division of Blind Services programs that serve the 6 to 13 age group. DBS funds programs for children from infancy to age 5, and from 14 to age 22, but the age group in the middle has missed out on funding for basic needs. Paloma is one of 340 children who fit into that gap, forcing local agencies like the nonprofit Lighthouse to use other revenue sources to serve them.

Although she only got a third of what she lobbied for, Paloma is happy with the $1 million in a tough budget year when hundreds of projects were vetoed.

“It feels awesome,” Paloma said Tuesday. “There’s still work to be done. It’s very, very important.”

The money will go to the 17 agencies statewide like Lighthouse that teach technology, social skills and mobility, important to continuing a visually impaired child’s development. So often, a visually impaired child’s progress falters without those services during those formative years. When they transition into services at age 14, they’re often far behind.

***The Public Affairs Consultants Team of Jack Cory, Keyna Cory and Erin Daly Ballas guide their clients through the legislative, state agency and local government process. They do so by providing governmental consulting, lobbying and professionally coordinated grassroots programs for businesses, professionals, non-profits, local governments and associations. They Cover Florida Like the Sun.***

DEMOCRAT SEAN ASHBY LAUNCHES 2016 BID IN HD 50 AMID HOUSE SEAT-SWAPPING via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics

Orange County classroom teacher Sean Ashby announced his intention to seek the House District 50 seat in east central Florida to be vacated by Rep. Tom Goodson, who is switching districts.

Ashby will face current HD 49 Rep. Rene Plasencia, who has filed for the Republican-leaning seat to avoid being bounced after one term, like his 2014 opponent former Democratic Rep. Joe Saunders in that mercurial northeastern Orlando seat.

Ashby, who previously sought the HD 50 seat in 2012, said … he intends to fight for the proverbial “little guy” if elected to the House, presumably against a Republican majority that ignores them.

“Floridians deserve elected officials who prioritize the interests of their constituents over the interests of the powerful … As the representative for House District 50, I will strive to push for equality of all people regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and wealth; join those who work to protect women’s rights, and ensure affordable healthcare for all Floridians.”

Ashby would bring a public school teacher’s perspective to the region for the first time since Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, beloved by Florida Democrats, was shown the door in GOP-leaning nearby HD 30 by Republican Rep. Bob Cortes, who ousted her by a margin of 57 percent to 43 last year.

APPOINTED: Major General Douglas Burnett to University of North Florida Board of Trustees; Vincent CosentinoJohn DouglasChristine GoulbournePatrick CannonBenedict GrzesikLori Kijanka and Margaret Ann Robinson to the Florida Rehabilitation Council; Joseph Jernigan to the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida; Tommie Hudson to the Holmes County Hospital Corporation; Robert Musco to the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Information Systems Council; Lynne Roberts to the Board of Athletic Training; Catherine ChambersMichael DavidsonMargaret HuttonTammy “Chereese” Stewart, and Paresh “Paz” Patel of the Clay County Development Authority; Celeste Dockery to the Board of Employee Leasing Companies; Anthony Miller to the Florida State Retirement Commission; and Mantha Young to the Early Learning Coalition of Florida’s Gateway.

PERSONNEL NOTE: DARREN RICHARDS NAMED TUCKER/HALL CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER Full story here

Veteran newsman Darren Richards has been named chief operating officer for Tucker/Hall, one of Florida’s largest public relations firms.

Richards has been promoted from vice president and shareholder at the Tampa-based strategic communications company, which he joined in 2009 after a 23-year career as a news executive. As head of Tucker/Hall’s crisis practice group, Richards is accredited by the Institute for Crisis Management, and received training from the Center for Creative Leadership, as well as the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

“Darren has been a tremendous contributor since coming to the firm six years ago,” said Tucker/Hall President Bill Carlson. “Everyday, he is focused on getting results for clients. But he also cares deeply about our firm and the community. I’m excited about the future with Darren in this new role.”

Carlson will continue as president, and founders Jeff Tucker and Tom Hall will remain active shareholders with the firm.

“I’m tremendously excited to take on this new role,” Richards said. “I look forward to building upon all the great work of Tucker/Hall from the past 25 years and helping take the firm and our clients to new heights.”

Prior to joining Tucker/Hall, Richards’ career includes stints as news director at WTSP, the Tampa/St. Petersburg CBS affiliate.  He also worked at a variety of TV stations across the country: Ft. Myers, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Phoenix, Denver and North Carolina.

PERSONNEL NOTE: FLORIDA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION NAMES ANDREA MESSINA AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Full story here

Florida school board members have a new leader … former Charlotte County School Board Member Andrea Messina was named new Executive Director of the Florida School Boards Association Board of Directors.

She will be replacing the retiring Dr. Wayne Blanton, who held the position since 1985. Prior her promotion to Executive Director, Messina previously served as FSBA’s Director of Professional Development.

“We were fortunate to consider several excellent candidates for this position,” said FSBA President Caroline Zucker, who sits on the Sarasota County School Board. “Andrea presented the best combination of experience and leadership to take the helm as Executive Director.”

FSBA is the nonprofit corporation representing all school board members in Florida. Founded in 1930, the FSBA has developed into the advocacy and collective voice for Florida school districts, often working with other educational and community agencies to improve education in Florida. The group’s primary mission is to increase student achievement with effective school board leadership.

“I look forward to this new opportunity to work with school board members and school districts to build on FSBA’s legacy of advocating for students and public education,” said Messina.

STAY CLASSY, TALLAHASSEE — POLICE REMOVE UNAUTHORIZED CONFEDERATED FRLAG FLOW OVER CITY HALL via The Associated Press

Authorities say they’ve taken down a Confederate flag someone raised unauthorized on a pole outside Tallahassee City Hall.

Police said in a report released Saturday that an anonymous caller alerted them to the flag found flying Friday afternoon outside City Hall. Police impounded it.

City Hall was closed for the July Fourth weekend. Mayor Andrew Gillum condemned the flag-raising, vowing whoever put the flag up would be held responsible.

“Today we proudly celebrate the founding of our Nation” under a single flag, he said. “While this reprehensible act may have been an attempt to divide us, I know that our community will instead choose to unite and focus on the values that bind us together.”

TWEET, TWEET: @MBakerTBTimes: Confederate flags seen on the drive to the infield media center (at the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona): Five

TWEET, TWEET: @NewsShelby: Dozens of ppl waving confederate flags on overpass off I-10 on Chaffee Rd. At least 50 ppl here today

WHAT MARC CAPUTO IS READING — FLAKKA’S DESTRUCTION UNITES A FAR-REACHING ALLIANCE via Anne Geggis of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

Walking down a trash-strewn Pompano Beach thoroughfare during a recent rally against the latest street drug scourge, marchers experienced a firsthand encounter with the unfolding crisis … “We have a flakka patient over there. It’s taking eight of us to hold him down.”

Statistics support the rising alarm. Sixteen deaths in Broward County have been attributed to flakka between November and May. (Three deaths were attributed to flakka in Palm Beach County during 2014 and 2015.) Already, the number of flakka cases the Broward Sheriff’s Office has processed in the first six months of this year is 45 percent higher than all the cases identified in 2014.

The toll in local emergency rooms — North Broward Hospital District is tracking 20 flakka cases a day — has prompted forums, prayer marches or community meetings almost every day, said Jim Hall, part of the Flakka Action Team and a drug epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University.

Broward Health has posted a 3-minute video on its website with grisly images of flakka’s effect on the body. The God Squad is taking to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snap Chat to flood social media with its anti-flakka message. Fort Lauderdale police are planning a training session about the drug.

Pompano Beach City Commissioner Edward Phillips has been to four anti-flakka events this year. He said the potential destruction of flakka seems far worse than anything the crack epidemic produced.

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.