Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – May 1

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

Today’s SachsFact is brought to you by the public affairs, integrated marketing and reputation management experts at Sachs Media Group: We all know today was supposed to be the day the hankies drop, signifying the simultaneous adjournment of the Florida Senate and House. We also know the House didn’t wait until today, instead going home more than three days early. What many didn’t know was that the move broke at least 44 years of tradition. State records on adjournment only go back to 1971 – and the House and Senate haven’t ended a regular legislative session on different days in all that time.

DAYS UNTIL Sine Die: 17 hours and 59 minutes; Jacksonville’s Mayoral Election: 18; Major League Baseball All-Star game: 73; Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuts: 237; First Day of 2016 Legislative Schedule: 256; Florida’s Presidential Primary: 318; Florida’s 2016 Primary Election: 487; Florida’s 2016 General Election: 558.


Look for Brad Herold to be named soon the next Executive Director of the Republican Party of Florida. Herold is currently Deputy Executive Director and will be taking the reins from David Johnson, who has been generously volunteering his time as Interim Executive Director.

Before coming to the RPOF, Herold most recently served as deputy state director for U.S. Senator Marco Rubio.  Herold also managed Mike McFadden’s campaign for U.S. Senate in Minnesota against incumbent Senator Al Franken.  Herold has also run campaigns for the Republican Party of Florida and former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, as well as working in the administrations of former Speaker Will Weatherford and Governor Rick Scott.


The Tallahassee gossip mill is nearly always circulating rumors about former state Rep. Ausley running for an opportune office. Leon superintendent, supervisor of elections, city commissioner, perhaps a crack at Congress… you name it, someone has probably floated it at Harry’s.

But a greater volume of talk from more reliable sources is indicating that the former District 9 representative and candidate for chief financial officer will indeed launch a bid for her once-and-possibly-future House seat based in Tallahassee and its northern suburbs. We hear an announcement could come as early as Tuesday.


As first reported here, ace reporter Mike Van Sickler (and his wife, Miami Herald reporter Kathleen McGrory) are headed to Tampa Bay to work for the Times there, MVS as an editor, McGrory as a health care reporter.

So who will fill Van Sickler’s spot in the Tallahassee bureau? We’re hearing top-notch scribe Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune is one of the Times‘ top choices. Will Wallace make the jump? Stay tuned.


Gaetz is known for his sarcastic and sometimes biting Twitter posts. He is an equal opportunity offender, known to criticize Republican and Democratic colleagues alike when they do something he considers ill-advised.

But one tweet earlier today has some people branding Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, a racist, and there could soon be demands for public apology. House Speaker Crisafulli came to Gaetz’s defense, but the Legislative Black Caucus is buzzing and not in a good way.

It all goes back to the petition Senate Democrats filed Thursday in the Florida Supreme Court, asking for a ruling on the constitutionality of the House’s early adjournment of session over a dispute about Medicaid expansion. That filing had a couple of typos, and House Republicans’ staff had fun Thursday afternoon pointing out these errors and making jokes.

Gaetz took it a step further, tweeting a jab at House Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner, an attorney by trade, and Sen. Dwight Bullard, a high school teacher who other than being among 13 Democratic senators who are co-plaintiffs in the filing has very little to do with things.

“This lawsuit reads like it was researched and drafted by Sen Joyner……and spell checked by Sen Bullard,” Gaetz tweeted Thurday evening.

Joyner and Bullard are both black. As the leader of the Senate minority, Joyner has been a visible critic of House Republicans and spoke during a press conference highlighting the court petition. So did Sen. Darren Soto, who Joyner indicated was her point person on this filing, and Sen. Maria Sachs. Soto and Sachs are white.

… The first tweet criticizing Gaetz to gain widespread attention was by Sen. Jack Latvala, who is white. “This is absolutely disgraceful for a public official to say!,” he tweeted.

From there, things took a mostly negative turn. Here are links to various tweets saying what Gaetz wrote made him seem racist: click herehere, and here.

Twitter user @FL_narcissist created a Storify round-up of the highlights from various Twitter users — or lowlights, depending on your perspective.

Things got so bad, that House Speaker Steve Crisafulli stepped in to both apologize for and defend Gaetz.

“I don’t condone the Tweet by @MattGaetz. He is an agitator, yes, but not a racist. Please accept my apology to those offended,” Crisafulli wrote.

ABOUT THAT LAWSUIT FROM THE SENATE DEMOCRATS via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press

The fallout over the collapse of this year’s session of the Legislature continued Thursday as a group of Democrats went to court to try to force the House to return to the state Capitol.

The legal tactic came the same day that Senate President Andy Gardiner floated the idea of holding a special session in June to craft a new state budget. State government may have to shut down if the House and Senate cannot agree to a new budget by June 30.

The House abruptly adjourned earlier this week after leaders contended there was no reason to remain in session as long as they continue to have a stalemate with Senate leaders over the budget and health care.

The session was scheduled to end Friday. Senate Democrats maintained that the House violated the state constitution by leaving three and a half days early. The constitution reads that neither chamber can adjourn for more than 72 hours without an agreement between the House and Senate.

Leader Joyner called the departure of House members “unacceptable.” She said Democrats filed the emergency petition with the state Supreme Court to make sure that similar actions are not taken in the future.

“We didn’t want this to be a precedent, `Well, the hell with it, we’ll pick up our marbles and go home,'” said Joyner, a Democrat from Tampa.

Thirteen of the 14 Senate Democrats signed the petition. Joyner said she asked each senator individually if they wanted to join the lawsuit. She said she could not reach Democratic Sen. Gwen Margolis.

The state Supreme Court late Thursday ordered the House to respond to the lawsuit, meaning the high court could rule before the scheduled end of the session. The Florida Senate is not scheduled to work on the final day, but senators could return if asked by Gardiner.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli released a statement Thursday night saying that he disagrees with the arguments in the lawsuit and has no plans to reconvene. His office will file its response with the court Friday, he said.


Lee said that the Senate did not expect the House to respond to their call to return to finish the session but plans to ask the Florida Supreme Court to declare the Florida House’s actions unconstitutional to assist future legislatures and the “playbook that is developed by pundits.”

“I don’t think anybody had any great expectation the House is going to rush back into session but there has been an historical precedential impact of what has taken place here this year,” he said, in an interview on The Florida Channel. “As we know, there is a playbook that is developed by all the pundits that watch this process and there will be a time where someone will fantasize about doing this again and we want to make sure that future leaders know the constitutional impact to that.”

Lee suggested that “over the summer” the Senate request a “declaratory statement from the Florida Supreme Court. Not to say who is right or who’s wrong but to send a message to the Legislature about how the Constitution applies in these situations.”


It’s painful to see Crisafulli getting sniped at on the Senate floor and bludgeoned in the press. If Crisafulli engineered a “surprise” end to a budgetless 2015 legislative session, Senate President Andy Gardiner engineered an even bigger surprise at the beginning.

The seeds of the session meltdown weren’t planted last week or over the weekend or sometime Monday. They were watered into the Senate soil in about the second week of March, when — completely out of the blue — Gardiner had the Senate take up Medicaid expansion.

As Crisafulli wrote in his letter to Gardiner, “I told you that the House could not pass ObamaCare expansion. It’s not something that I can force them to pass. It’s not about a single member. This is a matter of the House exercising its constitutional duty to represent those who have elected us. …”

Gardiner’s new surprise priority caused Crisafulli to ask in his letter, “If you felt so strongly about expansion, why did you not ask a House member to file a bill? Why did you not send us your bill so that we had something to consider? Why did you not ask it to be a part of the Joint Work Plan?”

In spite of the philosophical differences the majority of House members had with Medicaid expansion, in spite of the untenable position the Senate president had put him in, Crisafulli still tried to rise to the occasion — in fact go above and beyond his obligation. Late last week he and the House sent the Senate an offer to fully fund the federally canceled LIP program, the Low Income Pool hospitals need to treat low-income patients, taking that $2 billion off the table and agreeing to consider Medicaid expansion separately.

What did Gardiner do? Basically, he told Crisafulli to go pound sand.

The budget planes will land by June 30, no matter what. Right now they’re flying at a turbulent 5,000 to 10,000 feet. But the pilots, the professional staff of the Florida House and Senate, are the best in the business — truly, the best in the nation and have been acknowledged as such. That’s not a compliment, it’s a fact. By the time lawmakers return, staff will be ready to lift them to the smooth air at 30,000 feet. They will have options both sides can accept, I’d bet good money on it.


Gardiner is offering an outline for a June session to work on crafting a state budget — and the health care expansion that paralyzed things this spring.

Gardiner sent Crisafulli a proposal Thursday for lawmakers to return June 1 to the Capitol and keep the session open until June 20 to complete their work.

The state’s current, $77 billion budget will expire June 30.

“Again, given the severity of these issues, I believe an agreement to begin an special session on June 1 will provide the Legislature the maximum flexibility to complete our work on the 2015-

16 General Appropriations Act in an efficient and transparent manner,” Gardiner said in his letter.

Crisafulli … apparently plans to take a little time deciding.

But he did say, “Finally, progress. I look forward to getting back to the Senate President soon.”



Democrats continue to hammer House Republicans in vulnerable districts over their early exit this week and are now dropping thousands of mailers in nine swing districts, a day after announcing they were targeting those same districts with robo-calls.

“In Tallahassee, Manny Diaz lets the Tea Party pull his strings,’’ reads the flyer, which features Rep.Richard Corcoran as puppet master and the heads of Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli in the background.

“Turning his back on Broward and Miami-Dade families, Miami Diaz decided that denying health care to 800,000 working Floridians was more important than doing his job,” the copy reads.

Also targeted for the mass mailings are Reps. Scott. Plakon of Longwood, Bob Cortes of Maitland,Mike Miller of Winter Park, Shawn Harrison of Tampa, Chris Latvala of Clearwater, Kathleen Petersof St. Petersburg, Bill Hagar of Boca Raton, Manny Diaz of Hialeah, and Frank Artiles of Miami. Each of them reside in districts were voter registration is shifting away from Republicans, and that could make them vulnerable in the 2016 general election year.

The “Tea Party” message also helps Democrats exploit the pressure legislators are getting from those on the right, who are warning Republicans that a vote in favor of Medicaid expansion could draw a primary challenge for these House seats.


State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia is “laser focused” on his new job. He’s “worked extremely hard,” he wrote in a recent email, and has shown “unconditional commitment” to his cause.

This would seem to be good news for the all Hernando County residents he represents.

Except for one thing: The job consuming all this energy and concentration is not the one voters elected him to do. It’s his other new job — chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

Ingoglia, who has been running the party since January, does seem like an unusually energetic guy, possibly capable of juggling these two demanding positions. Maybe he can even handle the third job that apparently kept him busy until shortly before the Florida House called an abrupt end to the session on Tuesday — leveraging his power to replace fellow freshman Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando, as future speaker of the House.

Read the recent email about Ingoglia from Lew Oliver, chairman of the Orange County Republic Executive Committee, and you get the impression of a glutton for power at the Tallahassee all-you-can-eat buffet, loading his plate down with prime rib.

Specifically, Oliver accused Ingoglia of threatening to withhold party money from vulnerable representatives in 2016 if they don’t back him for speaker. This clearly shows, Oliver wrote, Ingoglia’s conflict in both leading the party and serving in the House of Representatives.

Ingoglia responded in an email denying that he’s trying to pull off a coup and stating emphatically that his job as a representative is not getting in the way of his role as party chairman; it’s the email with the previous quotes about Ingoglia’s devotion to the party.

— RENE PLASENCIA CAMPAIGNED ON MEDICAID EXPANSION. NOW??? via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel

Last year — when Rene “Coach P” Plasencia was courting votes in a Dem-heavy district — he declared himself an avid supporter of expanding Medicaid. In fact, he minced no words when speaking with the Orlando Sentinel’s editorial board when he was courting the board’s endorsement, saying: “I would have voted to expand Medicaid expansion.”

If that wasn’t clear enough, Plasencia went on to explain why he thought Florida should accept this money.

“We keep on giving our money to the federal government and not getting it back in resources,” he said. “That’s our money that we pay in taxes. And there are a lot of people who need that money for their health care coverage.”

But once in office, Plasencia voted for the House budget that excluded Medicaid expansion.

And House GOP leaders have proclaimed their caucus is now united in opposition to the expansion. When asked this week for his thoughts, Plasencia told Florida Trend reporter Jason Garcia: “I’m now looking towards my leadership for guidance…”

That may not be surprising. House leaders have whipped their caucus hard on this issue, urging them to toe the party line and not express any dissent. They even gave out talking points to members who were struggling for answers for constituents.


Gov. Scott has not been visible this week as the Legislative Session collapsed amid round after round of insults and threats of a lawsuit between his fellow Republicans. Scott’s schedule showed “no scheduled events” and Scott’s press office did not respond to two requests to identify where he is.

But Scott’s office issued this news release in which Scott said he will begin working immediately with the Senate and House on a budget that will continue “critical programs.” Scott’s statement does say that any conversation on changes to health care policy should involve “thoughtful debate” — which is what the Florida Senate has been seeking from the House for weeks.

WHILE LAWMAKERS FEUD, SCOTT VISITS FERRIS WHEEL, WAWA via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press

When it became clear that the House and Senate wouldn’t agree on a budget, Republican Gov. Scott was in California trying to get shipping companies to move to Florida.

And when the Legislature was at the point of no return to either pass a budget or go home without completing the one task it’s legally required to do each year, Scott was at a Wawa gas station opening in Fort Myers.

When the Senate threatened to bring legal action against the House for adjourning three days early with more work to be done, Scott was visiting a giant Ferris wheel in Orlando.

“Clearly this is not going to be featured in the `Profiles In Courage’ book in the future about political leadership, that’s for sure,” said Republican Sen. Rob Bradley the day the Senate came back to session after the House went home over an impasse on the budget and a feud over whether to expand health care coverage for the poor.

Scott did go to the Capitol three weeks into the 60-day session with Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher to show people how much they’d save if the Legislature passed his cellphone and TV tax cut. The $40 annual savings equates to the price of a cup of Starbucks coffee once a month for the average Floridian.

And he ran television ads to build public support for those same tax cuts. But lawmakers say he was not as engaged as he should have been considering the severity of the budget dispute.

UH-OH — “Judge orders Google to release data on Gov. Scott’s Gmail account” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

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The Florida Board of Governors says the state’s ban on educational travel to Cuba will stay in place until the U.S. and Cuba re-establish full diplomatic relations … the board overseeing the State University System recently told Florida International University that once diplomatic relations are restored, requests “to conduct scholarly activities located in Cuba” will follow the standard approval process.

The board cited a state law forbidding any institution receiving state funds from traveling to “any country located in the Western Hemisphere which lacks diplomatic relations with the United States.”

FIU faculty unsuccessfully sued the state to overturn that ban. School officials say they’ll follow the current law, the only one of its kind nationwide.

Private colleges and universities are not affected by the ban.


One man ran naked through a Florida neighborhood, tried to have sex with a tree and told police he was the mythical god Thor. Another ran nude down a busy city street in broad daylight, convinced a pack of German shepherds was pursuing him. Two others tried separately to break into the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. They said they thought people were chasing them; one wound up impaled on a fence.

The common element to these and other bizarre incidents in Florida in the last few months is flakka, an increasingly popular synthetic designer drug. Also known as gravel and readily available for $5 or less a vial, it’s a growing problem for police after bursting on the scene in 2013.

It is the latest in a series of synthetic drugs that include Ecstasy and bath salts, but officials say flakka is even easier to obtain in small quantities through the mail. Flakka’s active ingredient is a chemical compound called alpha-PVP, which is on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of the controlled substances most likely to be abused. It is usually made overseas in countries such as China and Pakistan.

Flakka, a derivative of the Spanish word for a thin, pretty woman, is usually sold in a crystal form and is often smoked using electronic cigarettes, which are popular with young people and give off no odor. It can also be snorted, injected or swallowed.

“I’ve had one addict describe it as $5 insanity,” said Don Maines, a drug treatment counselor with the Broward Sheriff’s Office in Fort Lauderdale. “They still want to try it because it’s so cheap. It gives them heightened awareness. They feel stronger and more sensitive to touch. But then the paranoia sets in.”

Judging from the evidence being seized by police around Florida, flakka use is up sharply. Submissions for testing to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s crime labs have grown from 38 in 2013 to 228 in 2014. At the Broward Sheriff’s Office laboratory, flakka submissions grew from fewer than 200 in 2014 to 275 already, in just the first three months of this year, according to spokeswoman Keyla Concepcion.

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HOW JEB BUSH WILL WIN IN 2016 via Bernie Quigley of the Hill

Bush will find only one path to victory in 2016: through his brother, former President George W. Bush. And it will all come down to one issue: Was George W. Bush justified in invading Iraq in 2003, or not? That will be the purpose and legacy of Jeb as president; to vindicate, to legitimize and to justify the invasion of Iraq. If he does that, he will be remembered as the singular great man of our times; the one who stayed the course, the one upon whom history turns.

But first he must win the New Hampshire primary. From there on out, it will be a cakewalk to the Republican nomination, and a useful and creative one as well for the Democrats who will likely lose anyway in 2016. But they will be free to start again from scratch with the dynamic and able recent entry into the national field, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

To win, Jeb Bush must not hedge. He must openly and forcefully show his hindsight support for the Iraq invasion. He might even get his brother to stump for him in the respectful Veterans of Foreign Wars halls up here in the northern hills of New Hampshire as former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has done recently in Littleton, N.H., far from the maddening crowd of reporters and activists in Manchester and Concord.

Truths in history, like truths in battle, shift with the sands of time. Things can go either way and the memory and purpose of the invasion of Iraq is still not clear in America’s heart and mind. It must be clarified if America is to go forward.


In the all-important Pitbull presidential primary, Bush apparently is looking to make a move. Asked by TMZ if he could take anyone — dead or alive — to a baseball game, the former Florida governor picked two men: a former Republican president and Mr. Worldwide.

“I’d bring Teddy Roosevelt because I’d love to talk to him about his …” said Bush before trailing off while signing autographs Thursday in downtown Washington.

“The reason you like baseball is that you can have a conversation with people,” Bush said. “Might want to have Pitbull, too.”

One of Bush’s likely opponents, Sen. Rubio, is said to be tight with the 34-year-old, Miami-born rapper. Rubio, who, according to BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins, is “on a first-name basis” with Pitbull and has described him as a “friend” in interviews.

“His songs are all party songs,” Rubio elaborated in a December 2012 interview with GQ, when asked whether Pitbull’s raps were “too cheesy.”

“There’s no message for him, compared to like an Eminem,” Rubio said. “But look, there’s always been a role for that in American music. There’s always been a party person, but he’s a young guy. You know, maybe as he gets older, he’ll reflect in his music more as time goes on. I mean, he’s not Tupac. He’s not gonna be writing poetry.”

For his part, Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Pérez, has not endorsed a candidate.

BUSH MEETS WITH HOUSE LAWMAKERS via James Hohmann and Lauren French of POLITICO

Bush huddled privately with at least 15 House Republicans in Washington, the latest move by the Florida Republican to make inroads with the D.C. establishment.

At least seven members of the Florida delegation came to see their former governor, who spent about half an hour inside a house on the 300 block of C Street Southeast in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry, a deputy whip, arrived with Bush, who stopped on his way in to pose for a selfie with a mother and her daughter. Among the Florida members who came to see Bush were John Mica, Daniel Webster, David Jolly, Ileana Ros-Lehtian, Mario Diaz-Balart, Jeff Miller and Carlos Curbelo.

That turnout is notable because Bush is competing with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for support from the delegation ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.


“You are part of the new wave of hope for this country,” Bush said in fluent Spanish to the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference this week. Switching to English, he said the U.S. needs immigrants for the country “to become young and dynamic again.”

It doesn’t seem to matter that Hispanic voters typically do not have much say in Republican primaries. The former Florida governor’s play to Hispanic values and policy goals has begun to shape his young political operation. Well before the first votes are cast for the Republican nomination – and even before he declares his candidacy – Bush is strengthening ties with Hispanic voters who will be important in the head-to-head contest for the presidency in 2016.

At his side throughout this week’s appearances in Puerto Rico and Texas was Raul Henriques, a fresh-faced “body man” recently hired because Bush wanted a Spanish speaker to travel with him regularly. As well, Emily Benavides stood at the back of the hotel ballroom during Bush’s Houston address Wednesday, now on board to advise him on Hispanic media. And Bush’s Mexican-born wife, Columba, is expected to start doing more in the rising campaign, also with Hispanic media.

Bush primarily speaks Spanish with his wife. He has lived in Puerto Rico and Venezuela; he governed a state with a large Hispanic population – and he regularly cooks Latin cuisine at home.

“You’re not going to find a more Latinized anglo than Jeb Bush,” says Jorge Arrizurieta, a Miami-based Cuban-American who worked closely with the Bush family for decades. “There really hasn’t been a candidate ever in our country that has these attributes.”

It’s unclear whether those attributes will help or hurt Bush in the Republican primaries, where a vocal conservative minority holds outsized influence. Appealing to such voters, Mitt Romney in 2012 suggested that immigrants in the U.S. illegally should “self-deport.” The remark may have helped him win the GOP nomination, but it probably hurt him in the general election.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORSBUSH – is in South Carolina for the state GOP convention. RUBIO – is at the National Review Institute Ideas Summit in D.C.

VERN BUCHANAN OUT OF U.S. SENATE RACE via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

U.S. Rep. Buchanan will not run for the U.S. Senate in 2016. The Longboat Key Republican … is instead focusing on his re-election to the House where his growing seniority has made him a key player on U.S. tax policy and international trade issues.

“The decision came down to where could I make the biggest difference in serving Florida and improving the lives of the middle class,” said Buchanan, who is also the co-chair of Florida’s 27 members delegation to the U.S. House.

Buchanan, 63, was appealing to national Republicans because of his strong fundraising reputation. As the former finance chairman of the Republican National Congressional Committee, Buchanan has the national connections to donors coast-to-coast that could have helped him in what many expect will be a $50 million contest.

Buchanan, a businessman who once owned more than 20 car dealerships, has been in the U.S. Congress since 2006. Though Buchanan won his first race by just 369 votes, he has cruised to re-election every two years since.


Republican former Attorney General Bill McCollum confirms that he’s been calling prominent Republicans about possibly running for U.S. Senate.

“I certainly have an interest, but I’m just considering it,” said McCollum, 70, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate against Bill Nelson in 2000 and in 2010 lost the Republican gubernatorial primary to a wealthy newcomer named Rick Scott.

McCollum said his phone started ringing with people encouraging him after Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater surprised most of the Florida’s political world by announcing he would not run, and then even more when a mid-April Mason-Dixon poll showed him easily beating other potential candidates (pulling 20 percent support among Republican voters, compared to the next strongest Republican, U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Pinellas who had 8 percent support).

McCollum was by far the most recognized of seven names polled, with 29 percent of Republicans saying they had a favorable opinion of him, 7 percent unfavorable, 29 percent saying they recognized the name and had a neutral opinion, and 25 percent not recognizing him.


A new Super PAC has been formed to help elect U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy … to the U.S. Senate seat now held by Marco Rubio. Floridians for a Strong Middle Class, which filed papers with the state earlier this week, is not bound by the $2,700 cap on individual contributions that Murphy’s campaign is, and it cannot directly coordinate with the Murphy campaign.

Leaders of the committee include Tampa Democratic operatives/activists Ana Cruz and Alan Clendenin, former Bill Nelson aide Brian May of Miami (better known to some folks as the fellow who tried to slip a message to Alex Sink during her debate with Rick Scott in 2010), and Jennifer May of Washington handling compliance. Murphy’s father, construction company owner Thomas Murphy, could be a major donor to Floridians for a Strong Middle Class, but a Democrat involved with the effort said that Thomas Murphy would be among a broad array of Democrats if he contributes. Ashley Walker, who led Barack Obama’s last Florida campaign, is a senior adviser.


Murphy has been racking up major Democratic endorsements at a rapid clip since he launched his bid for the U.S. Senate back in late March. On Thursday he continued that trend, announcing via news release that he has secured the support of 25 sitting Florida state legislators.

“From South Florida to Tampa, from Orlando to the Panhandle, people are joining this campaign to get Washington working for Florida,” said Murphy in a written statement.

He continued: “I am overwhelmed to have the support of so many state lawmakers, who are leaders in their communities. While they battle obstruction and extremism in Tallahassee, I, too, will continue that fight in Washington.”

The all-Democratic roster of backers includes former Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith, House Minority Leader Designate Janet Cruz, fellow Palm Beach pol Senator Joe Abruzzo and Dean of the Senate, former President Gwen Margolis, along with a slew of sitting representatives.

Sen. Jeff Clemens is notably included in the newly minted list of Murphy backers, on the same day the Lake Worth lawmakers announced that he will not seek Murphy’s soon to be vacant 18th Congressional District seat.


Look for a decision by the end of next week from Rep. Rooney Jr. on whether he’ll run for Congress in 2016.

Rooney has been encouraged by a variety of Republicans — including his brother, U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney — to run for the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 seat that Rep. Patrick Murphy is leaving to run for Senate. The seat is a prime target for the national GOP because Republicans slightly outnumber Democrats in the district and Mitt Romney carried it in 2012.

Pat Rooney Jr. is president of the Rooney family’s Palm Beach Kennel Club dog track. A meeting of the Kennel Club’s board next week will be key to determining whether a congressional campaign is practical, Rooney said. Rooney said he’s already talked with his wife about the family considerations of a congressional run.

“I’d still say it’s 50-50,” Rooney said when asked about the likelihood he’ll run for Congress. “I don’t really think I’m leaning one way or another right now. The deciding factor is really going to be the business.”

Martin County school board member Rebecca Negron, the wife of state Sen. Joe Negron of Stuart, has opened a Republican campaign for the District 18 seat and Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor has opened a Democratic campaign.

HANG DOWN YOUR HEAD, DEBBIE DOOLEY via Jon Cassidy of the American Spectator

If you’ve ever got to teach a kid the meaning of non sequitur, remember this assertion by one Debbie Dooley, Tea Party eccentric and advocate for solar energy: Support solar energy, because Americans for Prosperity (AFP) says you shouldn’t, and “they refuse to take a position on the fiscal irresponsibility of illegal immigration and amnesty because their corporate benefactors support open borders and amnesty.”

There’s a ballot initiative campaign underway in Florida to get the state to endorse and promote solar energy all the usual ways, and it’s well-financed by interest groups with national ambitions, including friends of billionaire Tom Steyer, so different versions of the fight are popping up from Arizona to Indiana.

It’s likely to pick up more coverage, despite the inherent dullness of energy stories, because it pits Steyer against Charles and David Koch, or at least their respective networks and allies. You might say it represents the moment that the left learned to stop worrying and love dark money instead.

There are two sides to this debate.

On one side are people with some understanding of economics, or at least prices, who know that solar power is still roughly twice as expensive as electricity generated from natural gas, which is the source of 90 percent of the state’s power.

On the other side of the debate are people who’ve noticed that Florida sure is sunny. And some of them, after perhaps a few too many hours in the midday sun, have seized on a plan to convince conservatives that their belief in free markets and competition require them to support the industry’s latest bit of rent-seeking cadgery.

The Kochs require no such chicanery, as the bedrock economic facts are on their side.


Filling a packed crowd that his “journey here is not yet done,” Buddy Dyer concluded his annual “State of the City” address by confirming he will run for another term as Orlando’s mayor.

“There is so much more that we can accomplish together,” Dyer said. “My passion for Orlando is larger today than it’s ever been before.”

The mayor touted new and improved venues — including the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, where the speech was held — record tourism numbers and job creation from the past year in declaring Orlando “stronger than ever.”

The speech touched on everything from homelessness to transportation. Amid growing tension between police and the public in Baltimore and elsewhere, however, no subject took up more time than public safety.

“We have seen on the national level what happens when divides form between police and communities,” Dyer said.

The Orlando Police Department has been the subject of several excessive-force controversies lately, from which four officers are currently facing criminal charges.

Dyer said the city has carried out “severe” discipline against offending officers — one was suspended, another fired — and pledged to increase community outreach, improve training and review department policies.

He also called for OPD to adopt body-worn cameras.

***Today’s SUNBURN is sponsored by Corcoran & Johnston Government Relations. One of Florida’s top lobbying firms, Corcoran & Johnston has demonstrated the ability to navigate government and successfully deliver results for clients, time and again. To learn more visit***

APPOINTED: Christopher Nash and Mark D. Kiser to the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court.


Leslie Dughi, Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: Youth Services International; Centauri Specialty Insurance; Risk Management Solutions

Marty Fiorentino, Thomas Griffin, Joseph Mobley, Mark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: Ben Davis

Eliakim Nortelus, David Roberts, Akerman: Florida Independent Spirits Association


On Context Florida: What a week. We witnessed some remarkable political gamesmanship when the House adjourned three days early. What will happen to those bills involving Speaker Steve Crisafulli’s top priority of water policy, or film incentives, fracking, Uber and Scott’s tax-cut package? Will any be added to the call for special session? Bob Sparks wonders if these new moves will jump-start budget negotiations. Conservative extremists disabled our Florida Legislature this week, says Daniel Tilson. Tilson believes Florida should shun this radicalism of Gov. Scott and House Republicans. Florida Gov. Scott continues to build a record that no successor should be allowed to emulate, writes Martin Dyckman. Twenty-one times now, Scott has rejected lawyers recommended by the Florida Bar for seats on some of Florida’s 26 judicial nominating commissions. Scott’s behavior signifies something sinister. He plainly wants to make sure that there won’t be even a single voice of dissent whenever he wants to put a particular someone — Pam Bondi, perhaps? — on the bench. Catherine Durkin Robinson says it would be great if people took life lessons and slightly embarrassing moments and helped a young kid avoid similar mistakes. In a neighborhood school, right this second, is a teenager who is about to make some bad choices, dropping out before he or she graduates, and you can help stop it.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Trimmel Gomes’ newest episode of The Rotunda covers the Florida Legislature’s ongoing impasse over Medicaid expansion and attempts by Senate Democrats to get the Florida Supreme Court to force House lawmakers back into session. Former state senator and political commentator Robert McKnight weighs in on what he calls an embarrassment and lack of leadership in the process. Politico’s Marc Caputo offers up his prediction on how the gridlock will get resolved.

As the unrest in Baltimore puts race relations back in the spotlight, Gomes talks with Rep. Ed Narain, leader of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus about the challenges facing black Floridians. Sen. Arthenia Joyner who was once arrested for sitting in at a white-only movie theatre discusses the importance of learning from the past and tackling the issues head-on.

And how much do you know about Brian Pitts of Justice 2 Jesus? The Capitol’s best-known gadfly shares how he unwinds when not lecturing lawmakers about legislation.


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James  on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Local alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta comes to Sarasota’s Newtown, celebrating their 100 year anniversary; discussion on recent events in Ferguson, Missouri with Lawrence Miller.

Facing Florida with Mike Vasilinda: Reporter and columnist Bill Cotterell helps break down Session’s conclusion and abuse victims’ advocate Lauren Book discusses her 6th walk across Florida and her most recent awareness campaign.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS-MiamiSpeaker Designate Jose Oliva and West Park Rep. Shevrin “Shev” Jones talk legislative issues.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Former Sen. Paula Dockery, strategist Barry Edwards, USF-St. Petersburg professor Dr. Darryl Paulson and political reporter Brendan McLaughlin.

On Point with Shannon Ogden on WFCN in Jacksonville: Neil Bush, brother of George W. Bush and Jeb Bush.

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: A special legislative wrap-up edition with Al Ruechel.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Reporter Troy Kinsey leads a 2015 session recap.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon, Steve Vancore, Sean Pittman and Peter Schorsch.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to fundraiser Jessica Clark, Joe Culotta, blogger Sarah Rumpf, and Milton Vazquez.

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