Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — June 30

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

SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS USE OF MIDAZOLAM FOR EXECUTIONS via the Tampa Bay Times

A deeply divided Supreme Court upheld the use of a controversial drug in lethal-injection executions Monday, even as two dissenting justices said for the first time they think it’s “highly likely” the death penalty itself is unconstitutional.

The justices voted 5-4 in a case from Oklahoma that the sedative midazolam can be used in executions without violating the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

The drug was used in executions in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma in 2014 that took longer than usual and raised concerns that it did not perform its intended task of putting inmates into a coma-like sleep.

After the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear the case, the Florida Supreme Court halted the execution of Jerry Correll, who was convicted in 1986 of stabbing his ex-wife, their daughter and her mother and sister in Orlando.

It’s not clear at this time when executions could resume in Florida. Only Correll’s had been scheduled during last four months, while the federal court considered the case.

Justice Samuel Alito said for a conservative majority that arguments the drug could not be used effectively as a sedative in executions are speculative and he dismissed problems in executions in Arizona and Oklahoma as “having little probative value for present purposes.”

Meanwhile, the court challenge has prompted Oklahoma to approve nitrogen gas as an alternative death penalty method if lethal injections aren’t possible, either because of a court ruling or a drug shortage.

PAM BONDI ASKS COURT TO MOVE FORWARD WITH EXECUTION via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times

Just hours after the high court ruled that a drug used for lethal injections in Florida is allowed under the Constitution, Attorney General Pam Bondi filed to lift a state court order blocking executions.

Specifically, Bondi is asking the Florida Supreme Court to move forward with the execution of convicted quadruple-murderer Jerry Correll, who would be the 22nd person put to death since Scott became governor in 2011.

He would also be the first person executed since January. The six-month break is unusual for Gov. Rick Scott, who has signed death warrants at a faster pace than any governor in recent memory. Former Gov. Jeb Bush ordered 21 executions in his eight years in office, and Charlie Crist waited a full year and a half before issuing his first death warrant.

NBC TO DONALD TRUMP: YOU’RE FIRED via Alan Rappaport of the New York Times

NBC told Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential candidate and former star of “The Celebrity Apprentice” reality show, that he’s fired.

Following inflammatory remarks that Trump made about Mexican immigrants during his presidential announcement, NBC said in a statement that it was ending its business relationship with the billionaire real estate and media mogul. During his June 16 announcement, Trump referred to immigrants as “rapists” and “murderers.”

Citing “derogatory statements,” NBC said that it would no longer air the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants that were part of a joint venture with the network.

Trump gave up “The Celebrity Apprentice” before announcing his White House bid, and NBC had reiterated that he would have no role in that show. The reality series, which pits entrepreneurs against one another, added to Mr. Trump’s fame as he popularized the catchphrase “you’re fired” when dispatching contestants.

Last week, Univision said it would no longer air Trump’s pageants after his remarks. Trump suggested that he might take legal action for breach of contract and banned Univision executives from using his golf course in Miami.

… a Change.org petition urging NBC to end its relationship with him garnered more than 200,000 signatures, adding to pressure on the network to dispatch him.

TWEET, TWEET: @ChrisMoya62: Trumps done what no candidate has done. He’s United Hispanics for 1 purpose: The destruction of Trump.

TRUMP’S WIFE WANTS HIM TO LAY OFF JEB BUSH via Geoff Earle of the NY Post

An influential force wants Trump to knock off his attacks on fellow GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush: his wife, Melania.

“I was actually told that by my wife, and I don’t mean to [attack Bush], because I think he’s a nice person,” Trump told CNN’s Jake Tapperwhen asked about his hard hits on Bush.

Even Trump expressed doubts on his attacks on Bush, which have included blasting him on “Common Core” education standards and calling him “weak” on immigration.

“I actually felt bad because I hit him very hard one day and I said, why am I hitting him so hard?”

BUSH CALLS CONFEDERATE FLAG RACIST DURING CAMPAIGN STOP NEAR COLUMBIA via Schuyler Kropf of The Post and Courier

Bush’s first Charleston appearance since declaring his White House bid was behind closed doors … with about 60 clergy members from the Carolinas. But in a more visible setting later in the day, Bush called the Confederate flag a “racist” symbol.

He spoke of how in 2001 he decided to do something “politically incorrect” by ordering the removal of a flag that included the Confederate symbol from the Florida State Capitol grounds, according to The Washington Post.

“The symbols were racist,” Bush was quoted as saying …“If you’re trying to lean forward rather than live in the past, you want to eliminate the barriers that create disagreements …”

Bush also credited Gov. Nikki Haley for “doing more or less the same thing under a lot of pressure” with her call to remove the flag from the Statehouse grounds.

“South Carolina wants to be viewed as the host of this great business,” Bush said. “Most South Carolinians … are proud of the businesses that have come here. … Anything that gets in the way of that vision, I think while doing it respectfully, ought to be put aside and allow South Carolina to move forward.”

Bush only lightly addressed the Emanuel AME Church mass shooting that killed nine black parishioners June 17.

BUSH OFFERS RECOMMENDATIONS ON IMPROVING HEALTH CARE IN U.S. via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

A major criticism that Democrats and members of the media have against Republicans critical of the Affordable Care Act is “What would you replace it with?” … Bush attempts to answer that criticism by declaring that the fight against Obamacare is nowhere near over, and says he has some “specifics” for its replacement.

“I was disappointed by last week’s Supreme Court ruling in the King v. Burwell case,” he writes. “But that decision is not the end of the fight against Obamacare. This fatally flawed law imposes job-killing mandates, causes spending in Washington to skyrocket by $1.7 trillion, raises taxes by over a $1 trillion and drives up health care costs. Instead of fixing our health care system, it made the problems worse.”

Here are his prescriptions for a better health care system than the ACA. You can make up your mind on how specific they truly are: … we should empower states to implement local, accountable solutions that work for their citizens … Having a pre-existing condition should not mean patients have to worry about keeping their coverage or getting the care they need. We need a conservative solution that works for those patients.

I want to protect every American against catastrophic medical expenses — no one should lose their life savings due to an illness or accident … Health care should be more responsive and easier to navigate through transparency, innovation, and accountability in the health care system.

Individuals should get tax relief for their premiums and their care … help make health coverage portable, helping Americans who change jobs or start their own businesses.

We should also strengthen employers’ ability to offer more choices at lower costs … make care more affordable for small businesses. This involves better data on prices and outcomes, flexibility for employers promoting wellness programs, and the ability to offer more innovative benefit designs.

BUSH IS DEFINITELY A BETTER CAMPAIGNER THAN HE ADMITS via Melinda Henneberger of Bloomberg

“You’re here to hear a humble candidate,” Bush began at a town hall-style discussion in Henderson, Nevada … The former Florida governor and Republican presidential hopeful described his son George P. Bush, who is the Texas land commissioner, as “much better than me” in wowing crowds. He assured the audience that he’d be making some mistakes on the campaign trail, “operating outside my comfort zone,” well beyond GOP strongholds.

… while some supporters have complained privately that he might be a little too humble—and ought to stop apologizing for not being a snazzier campaigner before he convinces people that he’s right—he did not lack the confidence to disagree with certain questioners. And he was not at all meek immediately after the event, showing his irritation with a pro-immigration activist who asked him a question and then snapping at a young aide who was about to lead him outside to do a news conference right where a handful of protesters were waiting for him.

“I just want to do my press conference—not other people’s,” Bush told the aide, shaking his head in disbelief right in front of a bunch of reporters. “And I want to go home,” he added.

During Bush’s earlier remarks … he’d said that his campaign strategy was to go everywhere, answer every question, and say the same thing in every venue, too, instead of tailoring his message to please this or that audience or staying inside what he suggested was his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s cozy, invitation-only cocoon.

Bush’s whole demeanor was different—warmer and more winning—throughout the town hall-style discussion. “Come here and give me a hug,” he said to a Hispanic man who said he’d just switched his registration from Democratic to Republican. Bush joked about being one of 65 Republican presidential candidates, and came off as genuinely enjoying the process. Every day, he said, “I wake up and think, ‘Wow, I’m running for president.’”

Bush said he was running not on the basis of soaring oratory but on his record as governor of Florida, where he cut taxes and fired government workers. “Compare that to Washington, D.C.,” he said, “where no one gets fired for anything.”

Still, he seemed to have all the time in the world as he posed for pictures with voters. And when he fumbled in snapping a picture himself—“Where’s the picture-taking on this thing?”—he came off as less unfortunately out-of-touch than his father was accused of being after the New York Times reported during his 1992 race that he seemed not to know what a grocery scanner was. (He said he did so know what the gadget was, but had just been making small talk with the clerk by asking about it.) If Poppy’s son really is the last American who isn’t skilled at taking selfies, though, that might be something of a selling point.

BUSH SUPER PAC PREPS FOR TV SPENDING IN FLORIDA via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

The Super PAC supporting Bush is looking at television advertising in Florida, according to documents filed with the FCC.

Right to Rise USA sought advertising rates from WFTX-TV in the Naples/Fort Myers area … stated issue is “2016 presidential primary election.” The committee is run by Mike Murphy, who is based in Los Angeles.

Marco Rubio’s campaign is also preparing for a big TV presence and has placed ad buys in the first four states to start in November and run through the February contests, an aide says.

HAVEN’T WE READ THIS ALREADY? — BUSH DOGGED BY DECADES OF QUESTIONS ABOUT BUSINESS DEADLS via Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post

Records, lawsuits, interviews and newspaper accounts stretching back more than three decades present a picture of a man who, before he was elected Florida governor in 1998, often benefited from his family connections and repeatedly put himself in situations that raised questions about his judgment and exposed him to reputational risk. Five of his business associates have been convicted of crimes; one remains an international fugitive on fraud charges. In each case, Bush said he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing and said some of the people he met as a businessman in Florida took advantage of his naiveté … He has brokered real estate deals in Florida, arranged bank loans in Venezuela, marketed industrial pumps in Thailand, wholesaled shoes in Panama, promoted a building-materials company to Mexican interests and advised transnational financial services firms.

BIG GET — PHIL ROSEN ENDORSES MARCO RUBIO via Jewish Insider of the Jewish Journal

Phil Rosen, a co-chair of Weil Gotshal’s real estate practice and well-known Jewish leader, has officially endorsed Rubio and will serve as a foreign policy advisor for the campaign. Rosen, one of Mitt Romney’s top bundlers in 2012, was highly sought after by several candidates.

When asked what specifically led to his endorsement, Rosen listed Rubio’s foreign policy experience and knowledge and said that is “something we desperately need at this troubling point in time for the U.S. and the world.” He called Rubio “the strongest supporter of the U.S.’s best friend on the world stage, Israel.” Lastly, Rosen said he thinks Rubio can attract the “necessary and desirable” support from youth voters, Hispanic voters and female voters.

… Rosen has agreed to serve as a senior foreign policy advisor for the campaign. Rosen said he was “thrilled” at the opportunity to serve with Rubio whom he called “dynamic, electrifying, intelligent and patriotic.”

Rosen’s endorsement is significant for a few reasons: 1. Fundraising. Rosen is one of the leading bundlers in presidential politics. 2. Sheldon Adelson. Rosen is close with Sheldon Adelson, with whom he serves on the boards of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and Birthright Israel. 3. Walker v. Rubio Bellwether. Rosen, who is very well connected in New York City fundraising circles, is believed to have deliberated between Walker and Rubio for a while. 4. Ted Cruz’s electability: According to Ted Cruz’s April FEC filing, Phil Rosen donated $2,700 to Cruz for President. While donors like Rosen might admire Cruz, many are concerned about his electability and Rosen’s Rubio endorsement is a reminder of that.

— “How Marco Rubio turned political star power into a soaring personal income via Tom Hamburger and Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: High-profile Tampa Bay-area Democrats will join Gwen Graham at a major fundraiser for her re-election effort in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District. The reception begins 5:30 p.m. at the home of former Democratic state Sen. Pat Frank, who now serves as Hillsborough County Clerk, 3108 Agawan Street in Tampa. Event hosts include a roster of the region’s leading Democrats, both current and former lawmakers as well as mayors of both sides of Tampa Bay.

ADAM BARRINGER NETS OVER $100K IN FIRST MONTH OF CAMPAIGN FOR RON DESANTIS’ SEAT via Phil Ammann of Florida Politics

In less than a month, conservative Republican Adam Barringer posted impressive fundraising numbers in his bid for Florida’s 6th Congressional District. Since announcing his campaign June 8, Barringer, the former Mayor of New Smyrna Beach, raised over $100,000 in his bid for the seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

According to the campaign, nearly all Barringer’s support came from within the Sixth District.

“I am grateful, that with the help of so many, we exceeded our goals in fundraising while gathering great ideas as we listen to our supporters,” Barringer said … “I’m pleased to say, that every dollar contributed came from individual supporters, not from special interest groups in Tallahassee or Washington D.C.”

After serving two terms as mayor, Barringer left office in 2014 to devote time to SoNapa Grille, the New Smyrna Beach “lifestyle” eatery he owns.

IF YOU READ JUST ONE THING — IT ONLY TOOK FIVE MONTHS FOR BILLIONAIRE GOP DONORS TO SET NEW RECORDS via Paul Blumenthal of the Huffington Post

It only took five months before the top donor to candidates, political party committees and political action committees in 2015 surpassed the giving of all top donors from the previous election cycle. This radical change in the amounts a single donor can give is all thanks to new contribution limits Congress slipped into the end-of-year omnibus budget legislation passed in December.

Warren Stephens, the owner of the Arkansas-based investment firm Stephens Inc., has given at least $800,000 in limited contributions to candidates, party committees and PACs through the end of May …  includes contributions to committees accepting limited contributions … “hard money” … excludes unlimited super PAC donations … “soft money.”

Stephens gave $265,400 to politicians, party committees and PACs in 2014, which made him among the top 100 donors that year … His $800,000 tops the more than $570,000 that hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer gave over the entire 2014 election cycle.

This dramatic rise in individuals’ limited contributions is a consequence of the creation of new party fundraising accounts for the six national party committees included in the spending bill … created a new account for building expenses within all six committees, and another for expenses related to a party nominating convention for the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee. It also expanded the limits to the recount accounts held by all six. … Donors are limited to giving $33,400 per year to a national party committee … limits for these new or expanded accounts were set at $100,200. In total, a single donor can now give $801,600 per year to the party of their choice.

The new accounts were seen by both parties as a way of shoring up their finances in an age when super PACs and nonprofits were sucking up unlimited funds.

Stephens is not alone among donors in pouring money into these new accounts. Singer, the top limited contribution donor in 2014, has also surpassed his past total, with $657,700 donated this year. Another hedge fund honcho, Citadel’s Ken Griffin, is nearly there, with $560,400 donated this year. Both Singer and Griffin are Republicans.

Other big-time donors … include GOP donors like casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam Adelson; billionaire coal titan Joseph Craft; Western Refining head Paul Foster and his wife Alejandra Foster; Wisconsin roofing billionaire Diane Hendricks; billionaire David Koch; and wealthy investors like Bruce KovnerDavid HerroMuneer SatterBob MercerSeth KlarmanHenry Kravis and John Childs.

Republican committees have taken advantage of the new party accounts far more than Democratic ones. The three Republican committees have raised a combined $13.4 million to just $1.2 million for the three Democratic committees. This difference pushes the gap in fundraising between the two parties from $12 million in favor of Republicans without the new accounts, to nearly $25 million with them.

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FIRST IN SUNBURN — FLORIDA SMALL BUSINESS CONFIDENCE SLOWS IN JUNE, NEW REPORT SAYS via Phil Ammann of Florida Politics

For the third month in a row, Florida small business owners are taking a fairly cautious view of the U.S. economy, according to a new report from consumer service provider Thumbtack.

However, reported sentiment over both current and future economic conditions remains higher than one year ago.

Thumbtack.com released the third installment of its Small Business Sentiment Survey, a monthly assessment of more than 10,000 U.S. independent businesses. The report includes more than 1,000 responses from Florida.

Factors that make the Thumbtack survey unique include the ability to study a large number of small businesses regularly, with a focus on companies with less than five employees. Thumbtack takes responses from a user base of 150,000 active service professionals, most of them sole proprietors in service industries.

June’s Florida findings include a slight downturn in confidence levels, especially in expectations about both the future economic environment and hiring. In comparison, Southern states have been generally reporting a stronger economic optimism than other parts of the country.

Nationally, small businesses across the country expressed higher pessimism over the country’s economic future, which researchers believe is the largest contributor to the decline in overall sentiment.

Questions on the survey include feelings about the general economic environment and health of their business. Owners were also asked to rate their current financial situation and forecast any pricing changes for clients, as well as any attempts to fill part-time or full-time positions over the past three months.

FDLE CHIEF WORKING OVERTIME TO SHED ‘INTERIM’ TAG via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

It might be the longest job interview in Florida history, at six months and counting … That’s how long ago Rick Swearingen got the shocking phone call that changed his life and set off a slow-motion political disaster for … Scott and the Cabinet.

It’s all because Scott and the three elected Cabinet members botched the removal of Swearingen’s predecessor as commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Gerald Bailey’s hush-hush firing by Scott last Dec. 16 exposed a lack of oversight by asleep-at-the-switch Cabinet members and damaged morale at an agency that reports to the Cabinet so as to be protected from political meddling by one person, even the governor.

After the Bailey bungling, Scott and the Cabinet adopted new rules requiring public job reviews of candidates hired to run Cabinet-level agencies, beginning with self-reviews.

Swearingen, the guinea pig under the new system, did a self-assessment at a Cabinet meeting last week and took full advantage of the opportunity to make a sales pitch for himself and FDLE’s 1,700 employees.

In his crisp, button-down style, he said starting pay for FDLE agents is too low, past budget cuts have increased turnover, especially in labs that do DNA research, and buildings are cramped and “crumbling” because of neglect.

He said FDLE is hobbled by an “isolationist” image among police agencies because it has withdrawn from law enforcement task forces.

STATE’S COURT CLERKS SLASH SERVICES, PERSONNEL, TO DEAL WITH BUDGET CUTS via Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times

Starting next week, Pinellas County residents will have five fewer hours a week to pay traffic tickets or file domestic violence injunctions, among other courthouse tasks … Fewer office hours in several Pinellas Clerk of Court divisions is one side effect to a budget dispute between clerks and state lawmakers. Court clerks throughout Florida are reducing office hours and laying off employees to deal with a 5 percent across the board cut to their current budgets.

Faced with a $1.2 million reduction in his budget, Pinellas Clerk Ken Burke is avoiding layoffs by requiring his 310 state-funded employees take two unpaid furlough days.

Clerks are blaming the Legislature for failing to make up a deficit in the state trust fund that feeds their budgets.

“It is repugnant to me that due to the failure of the Florida Legislature, the citizens of Pinellas will be impacted by reduced service levels and that the dedicated employees of our Clerk’s office will be financially damaged,” Burke wrote in an email sent to his employees last week to notify them of the cuts.

Starting July 6, the following Pinellas departments typically open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. will open at 8:30 a.m. and close at 4:30 p.m.: Customer Information Center; Criminal Court Records; Criminal Court Customer Service; Civil Department; Probate Department; Clerk’s Accounting; the St. Petersburg, North County and Tyrone branch offices; and the two records centers.

TAMPA THEATER OFFICIALS SHRUG OFF $1 MILLION REJECTION BY RICK SCOTT via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Since its creation in 1926, the Tampa Theatre has been one of the crown jewels of Tampa’s downtown cultural life. But like so many other classic movie houses built back then, it almost went out of business in the 1970’s, but was saved by the community.

Since 1977, it’s been owned by the city of Tampa and ran a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit organization. Sixty-percent of its operating budget comes through ticket and concession income, with the rest coming to the Tampa Theatre Foundation from individual members, companies and foundations.

With serious needs to upgrade its infrastructure, Tampa House Republican Dana Young and Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala worked to get $1 million included for such costs into the state budget two weeks ago. But the hopes of getting such state funding died … when Scott vetoed the appropriation …

“It would have kickstarted some work that we were doing on critical infrastructure needs,” explains theatre spokesperson Jill Witecki. “It’s a big complex, a very old building still has some of its original infrastructure in place,” she says, adding that the wiring and electrical system remain unchanged since the building’s 1926 opening.

“That million dollars would have certainly sped up how quickly we were able to do that work,” Witecki said.

USF CAMPUSES IN ST. PETE AND TAMPA STILL CELEBRATING BUDGET WINS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

One of the big winners out of last week’s budget signing by Gov. Scott was the University of South Florida, which received $12 million in funding for its Kate Tiedemann College of Business building on its St. Petersburg campus, and for the $17 million it received towards the construction of the Morsani College of Medicine building to be built in Tampa developer Jeff Vinik’s $1 billion project in the Channelside area.

USF intends to house two buildings in the one acre of primetime real estate offered to them by Vinik – The Morsani College of Medicine, and the USF Heart Health Institute. However the Heart Institute was shut out of the $15.75 million it was seeking for funding.

On schedule for USF means continuing to raise money privately as well as ultimately receive a total of $62 million in funding from the state over the course over the next several legislative cycles.

Although originally projected to stand next to each other … the buildings will now be stacked upon each other as one single facility. USF officials project about 600-700 medical school students to be working out of the building, “and there may be additional students from other USF Health programs,” suggests USF spokesman Adam Freeman.

No one is more ecstatic about the ultimate move by USF than Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who fired off a statement last week that “The new school will anchor the new development set to transform our southern downtown waterfront. Students, researchers and medical professionals will now have immediate access to Tampa General Hospital in addition to the amenities that downtown has to offer.”

Organizers with Vinik’s team recently said they hope to start work on roads, plumbing and other infrastructure for the project sometime later this summer.

PERSONNEL NOTE — ADAM PUTNAM PROMOTES AARON KELLER TO PRESS SECRETARY via Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News

Aaron Keller is now the press secretary for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Keller had been the communications coordinator and the deputy press secretary for the department.

 “Over the past two years, Aaron has proven himself to be a strong communicator and strategic thinker,” Commissioner Adam Putnam said … “He will help us deliver key messages about the services we provide to the Floridians we serve.”

ACTIVIST WINS BIG AT POKER via Buddy Nevins of BrowardBeat.com

Activist Jacquelyn Scott may have regretted losing her 2012 Fort Lauderdale city campaign to Commissioner Romney Rogers … The upside was it gave her more time to hone her poker skills.

Last weekend, those skills paid off. Scott won $153,876 for a First Place finish in the World Series of Poker Ladies No-Limit Holdem Championship in Las Vegas.

Having learned to play poker online roughly a decade ago, Scott had a $10,000 buy-in to the tournament.

A former nurse who is now a well-known Realtor, Scott has been a Fort Lauderdale civic activist for over a generation … leader of the Fort Lauderdale civic associations … She currently is on the Board of Directors of the organization seeking to preserve the Shippey House.

Shippey is one of Broward’s rare historical homes, an original (circa 1914-18) Dade County Pine structure, according to the organization’s website.  The home was the residence of Judge Fred B. Shippey, Broward County’s second judge.

JOE GRUTERS NAMES CAMPAIGN LEADERSHIP TEAM via Phil Ammann of Florida Politics

Sarasota GOP Chair Joe Gruters announced a solid Sarasota-area political roster … to his campaign team in the House District 73 race.

Key members chosen for the 2016 Gruters campaign team are several veteran Florida political operatives, including Mac Stevenson of Ellington’s Political Insights as general consultant; Adam Goodman, principal director of the Tampa-based Victory Group, Inc., to handle television and digital media; and Kelly Dowd’s KD Logistics from Sarasota to handle fundraising duties.

For campaign manager, Gruters tapped Jennifer Locetta of Sole Strategies in Casselberry.

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DUKE ENERGY PUTS PART OF $1M STEM EDUCATION FUND INTO TAMPA BAY via Wade Tyler Millward of the Tampa Bay Business Journal

Duke Energy, which has Florida operations based in St. Petersburg, will disburse a $1 million fund to public education institutions in Florida.

The coal-fired and natural gas generator … has most noticeably given $267,222 to the Pinellas County Education Foundation and $85,000 to the St. Petersburg campus of University of South Florida.

Duke brands itself as the largest electric power holding company with $120 billion in assets, according to a June 25 statement … recently put $1 million into the St. Petersburg campus to research solar power.

Other local grant projects to encourage science, technology, engineering and mathematics education include … $25,000 to Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay, a business and economics education program for students … $50,000 to the Pasco Education Foundation … $50,000 to the Polk Education Foundation and Business Partnership.

CONTEXT FLORIDA: BRIDGING DIVIDES, ENERGY & ECONOMY AND ROBERT AVOSSA

On Context FloridaShannon Nickinson says we should bridge our divides to make America stronger. Flags of the Confederacy — from the “Rebel flag” to the “Stars and Bars” — are a painful fissure, a wound we worried every day we allowed it to fly on public property. “Celebrating” heritage that was largely built on oppression and hate is nothing to be happy about. It is a truth we white folks may not like to acknowledge, but it is true nonetheless. Taking down that flag makes Pensacola stronger. When speaking about energy for our country, Barney Bishop says one is typically labeled either a shill for big oil or a left-wing environmentalist, depending on argument. That’s never been clearer to Bishop than during the past month when his comments on the topic made the rounds in print and online. Catherine Martinezreports on Robert Avossa, the new Palm Beach County schools superintendent, who hosted a group discussion with an enthusiastic group of 250 to 300 in the Glades Central High School media center this past Thursday evening. Avossa said he plans to put the best and most-experienced teachers and administrators in the schools that need them most. He committed to retaining teachers and raising graduation rates. Avossa, a former schools superintendent in Atlanta, said he hadn’t brought a 90-page strategic plan from Fulton County, Ga., but that he wants to hear from Palm County residents about what they want done.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Beth Babington, Carrie DiMuzio Madden, and Kelly Mallette.

SHE SAID YES! Congrats to Evan Power and his new fiancee Erin Hellkamp. Power popped the question this past weekend in front of the fountains at The Bellagio.

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.