Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – May 18

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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: One of Florida’s pioneering educators and civil rights leaders is remembered today on the 60th anniversary of her death. Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, the daughter of former slaves, founded and served as president of the eventual Bethune-Cookman University. She also served in prominent federal government posts, developed a close friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Her home in Daytona Beach is a National Historical Landmark, and a statue of her sits in Washington’s Lincoln Park – larger than life, just as she was.

DAYS UNTIL Jacksonville’s Mayoral Election: 1; Special Session 13; Gov. Scott’s Economic Growth Summit: 14; Sine Die: 33; Major League Baseball All-Star game: 56; First GOP presidential debate: 79; Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuts: 214; First Day of 2016 Legislative Session: 239; Iowa Caucuses: 259: Florida’s Presidential Primary: 301; Florida’s 2016 Primary Election: 470; Florida’s 2016 General Election: 540.


There’s a reason why the Jacksonville mayoral race is drawing the attention of outsiders like former President Bill Clinton, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Gov. Bush and Sen. Rubio and it’s about more than who wins on Tuesday.

It’s because the state’s largest city will also be a key to winning Florida in the 2016 presidential election, and having an ally in the mayor’s office can only help.

Perry, Bush and Rubio have an eye on the White House next year and each are helping former state Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry, who’s challenging incumbent Democrat Alvin Brown. Clinton, whose wife Hillary Rodham Clinton is running for president, came to Jacksonville to raise money for Brown.

“It just shows you the stakes that the state Republican Party believes are here,” said Matthew Corrigan, a University of North Florida political science professor. “Rick Perry and Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush – this is looking like a Republican operation not a Jacksonville mayor’s race.”

Florida is considered one of the most important pieces in winning the White House as the largest of swing states. While Miami is the state’s largest metropolitan area, Jacksonville’s mayor serves all of Duval County, which has about 900,000 residents. Duval County and has played a role in recent presidential elections. Without it, George W. Bush wouldn’t have won in 2000, when he carried Florida by 537 votes and Duval County by 44,234 votes. He carried Duval in 2004 by 61,586 votes.

But President Barack Obama targeted Jacksonville in 2008 and 2012 with the goal of making a solidly Republican area more competitive. About 30 percent of the city is black, or roughly double the statewide average. Obama’s campaign substantially increased black voter registration and turnout and cut the Republican margin of victory Bush saw here by tens of thousands of votes. John McCain won Duval by less than 8,000 in 2008 and Mitt Romney carried it by fewer than 15,000 in 2012. Obama carried the state.

One benefactor was Brown, who in 2011 became Jacksonville’s first black mayor and first Democrat to win in 20 years. He’s positioned himself as a conservative Democrat, saying he’s willing to work with Republican Gov. Rick Scott to create jobs. His absence at an Obama 2012 campaign rally was noticed by the local media.

If Brown wins re-election, he’ll be on a short list of Democrats seen as potential candidates for governor in 2018. Republicans want to stop that path while restoring Republican dominance to the region for 2016.

Perry has traveled to Jacksonville to help Curry, Bush has taped a video for him and Rubio is scheduled to appear at a rally Monday.

“In terms of what they see in 2016, I think Lenny has tried to make this a national issue. I focus on making this about Jacksonville. People in Jacksonville don’t care what’s happening in Washington, they care what’s happening in Jacksonville,” Brown said.

Curry wouldn’t discuss the implication the race has on 2016, but he has no apologies for bringing in Republican heavy hitters.

“It’s important for people in Jacksonville to know that I am a conservative Republican. I stand by conservative values – fiscally responsible government, free enterprise solutions,” he said. “Asking for the support of those individuals was a statement to Jacksonville that this is who I am and I’m proud of it.”

The race is considered too close to call and has been nasty. Curry, an accountant, is using a report that found more than $500 million in accounting errors to blame Brown for being fiscally irresponsible, though the report found the errors began long before Brown took office. Curry also blamed Brown for rising violent crime.

MORE FROM JAX via A.G. Gankarski of Florida Politics

— “Optimism abounds in Jacksonville mayoral campaigns in home stretch” — “Duval Democrats near 1,300 vote lead in Jacksonville election” — “Email Insights: Lenny Curry to bring in Marco Rubio on Monday

WHAT BROWN’S CAMP IS THINKING: Brown’s camp is proceeding with cautious optimism, even though they know that Curry is going to have a serious Election Day advantage. If they lose, they will have a series of what if questions, such as What if they had pivoted to the left sooner? and What if they had gotten rid of Fabien Levy sooner? The real issue in the campaign has been the ability to bring the disparate elements of the 2011 coalition together for one last big run. The messaging around Bill Bishop and the tacks toward Democratic orthodoxy have helped with that, even as they’ve necessarily still been less than forthcoming about the precise meaning of the much discussed request to the General Counsel to review federal, state, and local anti-discrimination legislation.

WHAT CURRY’S CAMP IS THINKING: Curry’s side, despite a robust day of Early Voting turnout that outpaced the Sunday before the 2014 General Election, feels good about where they are at. The GOTV Victory Rally on Monday with Marco Rubio and Carlos Lopez-Cantara, promises star power and great optics ahead of the Monday evening news. The D + 5 turnout that emerged at the end of Early Voting is not inconsistent with their thinking either. Ultimately, if its Election Day turnout operation is as expected, Curry’s camp think it’ll have a fighting chance when the votes are counted Tuesday evening.

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GOP legislative leaders announced late on Friday that they have come up with a long list of items they want to tackle during a 20-day special session, including a new state budget and even major health care changes.

The most pressing item is the budget since state government could be shut down if lawmakers fail to act by June 30. Gov. Rick Scott has already been warning about a shutdown and this week ordered state agencies to come up with a list of the state’s most critical services in case legislators cannot pass a budget.

But both House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner also decided to include in the formal session proclamation items being sought by both men including a package of nearly $700 million in tax cuts and a proposal to extend health care coverage to 800,000 Floridians.

It doesn’t mean that any of the proposals will pass during the session that starts on June 1, but it does mean that they are under consideration again.

… The agreement over the special session anticipates a robust discussion on health care that not only includes Medicaid expansion but health care changes pushed by the House that would affect doctors, nurses and hospital operations. The agreement also calls for implementing an amendment passed by voters that requires the state to earmark hundreds of millions of dollars for conservation programs.

Sen. Tom Lee cautioned that there’s no guarantee any of the proposals will pass.

“There’s been no deal cut ensuring passage of anything,” Lee said.


— Florida Hospital Association’s Bruce Rueben: “Florida hospitals appreciate the Legislature’s call to develop a sustainable approach to health care that fully meets the needs of our patients, those who are fortunate enough to have health insurance and those who are not. We look forward to working with the House and Senate to find solutions that include coverage and a replacement for the Low Income Pool.  Both are essential to ensure low-income, working Floridians have access to preventative care and critical services.”

— Healthy Works Florida: “We appreciate the progress being made by the Florida House and Senate and believe that by working together this special session the Florida Legislature can cut taxes, create jobs, boost our economy, and allow more working Floridians to purchase private health care coverage.”


Even now, as legislative leaders craft the framework for a deal they can finalize in time for Father’s Day, Corcoran detects a spirit of compromise nonexistent when Speaker Steve Crisafulli rammed down the plunger that blew up the session with three days to go. Explosions, after all, have a way of upsetting fixed opinions.

Everything that has to get funded will get funded, Corcoran predicts, at levels that reflect the state’s growth. And something will be worked out regarding the Low Income Pool that compensates hospitals for care of the poor, despite the Obama administration strategically squeezing the spigot on a pilot program that would have sent the state more than a billion dollars. Not to worry; the state still will get nearly $900 million in regular Medicaid for LIP.

WHAT RICHARD CORCORAN IS READING: “The dire Obamacare threat to New York Hospitals” via the New York Post

TOP OP-ED via Rep. Jason Brodeur: “House’s health plan reduces cost and improves access

“The House wants to expand the use of telemedicine and broaden the authority of advance-practice nurses to treat patients to the full extent of their education and training. We want to help physician practices use new service-delivery models like direct primary care, which restores the doctor/patient relationship and makes health care available at dramatically lower costs.

“We support expanding medical malpractice reform to reduce frivolous lawsuits that increase health-are costs, and expanding choices for where patients get their health care by eliminating unnecessary government regulations.

“We want to break geographic monopolies for hospitals. We support allowing consumers to buy health insurance across state lines. All these solutions, and others, would address access and cost better than more Medicaid.

“The Florida House does not believe Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is in the best interest of our state, and that is why we cannot support the Senate’s plan. FHIX may be a creative name, but it’s still Medicaid.”

— “Health care commission adds new element to funding debate” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

— “PolitiFact Florida: Medicaid expansion would help many of the same people that LIP helps” via Joshua Gillin of the Tampa Bay Times

FHSAA BILL IN PLAY? via Matt Dixon of the Naples Daily News

(H)igh school athletic directors plan to meet with Joe Negron … to voice their concerns over proposed legislation that would overhaul the Florida High School Athletic Association.

If passed, the bill would ease transfer and eligibility rules and weaken the FHSAA’s power of enforcement.

… The FHSAA initially appeared to be safe for another year when Senate Bill 948 died on the floor after the state House adjourned April 28 — three days early — because of an impasse over Medicaid expansion. The majority of the original bill has since been attached to SB2508, which will be voted on during the special session in June.

The House passed its original version of the bill, HB 7137, by an 86-29 vote April 22.


Special interest groups from across the state made a beeline for Lakewood Ranch with hundreds of thousands of dollars of checks in hand, money that will ultimately end up in the hands of Manatee County schoolteachers.

While undoubtedly providing good publicity for a range of lobbyists, the sugar industry, mining companies and casinos, their visit wasn’t only due to altruism and concern for Bradenton area schools.

It was also about politics.

For the dozens of special interest groups and state legislators at the Legacy Golf Club, it was a chance to support a charity near to state Sen. Bill Galvano’s heart.

Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who is in line to become the Senate president in three years, was helping host the Phil Galvano Golf Classic, named for his father, a famous golf pro to some of the biggest celebrities. Bob Hope, Jackie Gleason and Johnny Carson were among those who sought advice from Phil Galvano, who died from cancer in 1996.

… “I can’t believe how many people from around the state care so much about Manatee schools,” Galvano joked at a private reception of top donors that included mention of Mosaic, Mardi Gras Casino, Seminole Hard Rock Casinos, U.S. Sugar Corporation and TECO, the Tampa power utility.

Contributors paid up to $15,000 to sponsor the tournament.


Gaetz took to Pensacola talk radio to ridicule Gov. Rick Scott for his plan to have Florida hospitals share proceeds with other, less profitable health care facilities.

In the first part of his interview with Rick Outzen on his “Pensacola Speaks” radio show, the Niceville Republican said: “When Governor Scott, who as you know made probably hundreds of millions of dollars buying and selling hospitals, said this, my first thought was, ‘What an extraordinary and generous impulse. Clearly, he’s going to make this retroactive’… but apparently not.”

Gaetz then called out Scott for trying to introduce “socialism” into the state’s health care system by “forcibly extracting” revenues from one business and giving it to another.

“That’s government price controls,” he added, “that really brought the Soviet Union into a ‘Going Out of Business’ sale.”

Gaetz also disagreed that the governor began telling departments that the special session, which starts June 1, would bring a “continuation,” or status quo, budget – with no spending increases for programs such as schools, the environment or prisons.

“We don’t have that in Florida,” Gaetz said. “In Florida, we have a balanced budget provision in our constitution. Continuation budgets; that’s Washington talk,”


Negron said … he’ll continue “full-speed ahead” seeking $500 million to buy land south of Lake Okeechobee, even though the option of getting it from the U.S. Sugar Corp. is dead.

… South Florida Water Management District board voted unanimously to terminate its option to buy 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar land by October. The land includes a 21,600-acre parcel for a proposed reservoir to hold excess lake water and send it south to Everglades National Park rather than to the St. Lucie River, where the water causes widespread environmental damage.

District officials estimated the U.S. Sugar land would have cost from $500 million to $700 million.

Negron said he didn’t support the board’s decision: “I would have preferred that the U.S. Sugar land still be one of our options.”

During the state Legislature’s regular session this spring, Negron proposed using Amendment 1 money to issue bonds to generate up to $500 million to buy land to help reduce environmentally destructive Lake O discharges to the St. Lucie River. Now he’ll try to get the money approved during the upcoming special session scheduled to meet June 1 to 20.

JOURNALISM! — At 10:06 a.m. on Friday, SaintPetersBlog published: “Mike Fasano, one of the loudest critics of Fla’s health care position, STILL EMPLOYED by hospital.” At 6:30 p.m. on Friday, the Tampa Tribune’s Laura Kinsler published, “Fasano, Pasco’s tax collector, works as consultant for Florida Hospital Tampa Bay” without so much of a single line of attribution to where the story broke.


More than 19 months after CONNECT’s troubled launch, the computerized network remains problematic, despite (Jesse) Panuccio’s assurances of improvement.

It’s costing the state more money to process far fewer claims as the economy has improved; technical defects persist; a key goal of automating more tasks hasn’t been met; and Florida’s ranking among other states in meeting the needs of the jobless has actually gotten worse.

Only 65 percent of people applying for benefits last year met the federal standard for timely payment, ranking Florida 48th in the nation. In 2012, the year before CONNECT, 80 percent of applicants met that standard (ranking Florida 34th).

On the day it launched, jobless Floridians applying for claims reported widespread technical failures. But rather than show concern about the malfunctions, Panuccio and his team celebrated with congratulatory emails.

… After CONNECT launched, however, Panuccio was forced to hire more staff to cover for its technical shortcomings. In early 2014, DEO hired 330 new employees and a second contractor, CapGemini, which was paid $620,512.

… But 954 staffers remain in the reemployment assistance division as of this month, which is 59 more employees than in October 2012 — a year before CONNECT’s rollout. … The number of claims that CONNECT handles now is about a third less than it was with the old system when it had fewer workers.

“Florida is a stunning example of the worst launches ever for an automated system,” said George Wentworth, senior staff attorney for the National Employment Law Project. “I can tell you that the Florida unemployment insurance program continues to be among the least effective in terms of providing economic stability for jobless workers.”


Florida’s top regulator has banned what an advocate calls a “terribly unfair and entirely illegal” insurance practice — charging some consumers more money based on their shopping habits, not their risks or driving record.

A memo tells insurers not to use “price optimization,” a technique the Palm Beach Post examined last year. That can mean setting different prices for consumers with the same risks, based on software that tells insurers who is less likely to shop around.

“Insurers that have used price optimization in the determination of the rates filed and currently in effect should submit a filing to eliminate that use,” said a memo to insurers from the office of Florida insurance commissioner Kevin McCarty. … Consumer advocates who pushed for such a ban welcomed the move. Florida is the fourth state to ban price optimization, following Maryland, Ohio and California, they said.

“Most Americans are required by law to buy auto insurance and by their mortgage company to buy homeowners insurance, and it is terribly unfair and entirely illegal for insurance companies to vary premiums based on whether or not they are statistically likely to shop around,” said J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America and former Texas Insurance Commissioner. “It is the obligation of Insurance Commissioners to protect consumers from this kind of price gouging, and we applaud Commissioner McCarty for his action.”


Although craft beer enthusiasts are happy to be able to finally live in a state that can now offer them 64-ounce growlers, the legislation was always about more than the selling of a half-gallon sized jug. One could say the half-gallon growler had become the political pawn in what had led to a fierce battle over the very complex laws regarding the manufacturing, distribution and selling of beer that have existed since Prohibition.

Although there were a number of compromises that went into producing the bill, craft brewery owners and their advocates in the Legislature say the number one thing that came out of the legislation was that it now allows the creation of retail licenses for manufacturers. In January … retail advocacy groups and wholesaler networks filed a lawsuit with the state over the what has been known as the ‘tourist exception‘ that has allowed for those tasting rooms to be developed outside of the parameters of the three-tier system. However, those groups withdrew the challenge when the state agreed to look at the matter.

The bill limits breweries to eight vendors licenses. Opinions vary about that compromise. Young says she would have preferred no limitations on the number of locations because it “limits the ability potentially for small businesses to grow and thrive in our state, but that was what was required to get this bill passed.”

Currently, the law allows a brewery to transfer as much product as possible to another brewery throughout the state, without limitations, without having to pay a distributor to move their own product.

A third change in the law appears to be a win-win for everyone: this will now allow certain retail stores like Publix and Total Wine to offer free tasting of beer products. Somewhat amazingly, current law allows for those retailers to offer such tasting for wine and hard liquor, but not for beer. The new law changes that.

***Smith, Bryan & Myers is an all-inclusive governmental relations firm located in Tallahassee. For more than three decades, SBM has been working with our clients to deliver their priorities through strategic and effective government relations consulting that has led us to become one of Tallahassee’s premier governmental relations firms today.***


Sen. Marco Rubio cashed out most of his retirement savings while preparing to launch his bid for the Republican presidential nomination … sold six retirement funds in September 2014 for $68,241.09, according to his personal financial disclosure statement. He made the sale even though he apparently had ample cash in the bank: He reported between $100,000 and $250,000 in a checking account and between $50,000 and $100,000 in a money market account at the end of 2014 … so far in 2015, he estimates he has earned between $100,000 and $1 million from a new book.

He paid off student loans only after becoming a U.S. senator in 2010 and writing an autobiography that paid him more than $1.1 million in royalties. His latest filings show he owes at least $450,000 on two mortgages and a home equity loan he took out in 2005.

Still, the records show Rubio earned $52,000 on top of his $174,000 Senate salary last year from a part-time teaching position at Florida International University and in royalties that apparently come from the second book published in December. For the first time, Rubio also quantified how much his wife, Jeanette, earns, valuing her event-planning business at between $15,000 and $50,000.

Jeanette Rubio, a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader, now advises a foundation run by Florida billionaire Norman Braman, who is one of Rubio’s biggest political backers. Her compensation was previously disclosed on Rubio’s forms only as greater than $1,000 per year.

Rubio still qualifies for a pension for his eight years of service in the Florida legislature that will pay him about $1,000 a month when he turns 62 … he qualifies for a generous federal retirement plan. Rubio also still lists an employee savings plan from Florida International University, where he has taught since 2008, worth between $1,000 and $15,000. Rubio listed between $34,000 and $160,000 invested in special saving funds for his four children’s college education.

Rubio’s maximum net worth, outside the value of the Miami house where his family lives, was $355,000 last year, according to an AP analysis of the new records. That may rise quickly: Rubio’s paperwork indicates that so far in 2015 he earned between $100,000 and $1 million off his book “American Dreams,” which describes his plan for helping the working and middle classes.


Jeanette Rubio has eschewed the Washington scene, staying home in West Miami. In 2011, she got a job with a charity financed by [Rubio’s big donor] Norman Braman … They knew the job would raise questions … Records show Mrs. Rubio was paid at least $54,000 for her part-time job in 2013. The charity’s IRS forms show it gave out only $250 that year despite having assets exceeding $9 million. The charity spent nearly $150,000 in air travel.


When asked by Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, Rubio said it wasn’t a mistake at the time by then-President George W. Bush, given the intelligence he was presented in regards to weapons of mass destruction said to be in Iraq. Wallace asked Rubio whether that was a flip-flop from previous answers, and then pressed him several more times.

“It’s not a mistake. I still say it was not a mistake because the President was presented with intelligence that said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction,” Rubio said. “It was governed by a man who had committed atrocities in the past with weapons of mass destruction.”

TWEET, TWEET: @RealDonaldTrump: Marco Rubio was a complete disaster today in an interview with Chris Wallace @FoxNews concerning our invading Iraq. He was as clueless as Jeb

WITH ANOTHER BUSH EYEING WHITE HOUSE, FAMILY MONEY MACHINE SPRINGS TO LIFE via Beth Reinhard and Christopher Stewart of the Wall Street Journal

Jeb Bush, who opened the door to a presidential campaign five months ago, is now reaping a record-setting haul thanks to a donor network that stretches back to his father’s election to Congress in 1966.

… The Bush circle includes the family of Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus, which has given more than $1 million to the campaigns and political committees operating during Bush presidencies and governorships, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in State Politics; the family of private-equity firm KKR co-founder Henry Kravis gave nearly $600,000; and the family of Richard Kinder, the co-founder of energy company Kinder Morgan, gave more than $800,000.

The Wall Street Journal identified 326 donors who hosted fundraisers this year for Mr. Bush’s super PAC, based on invitations and news reports compiled by the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan government watchdog.

One in five were either members of the “Team 100,” those who raised at least $100,000 for the Republican National Committee during George H.W. Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign—or “Pioneers” or “Rangers,” who collected at least $100,000 or $200,000 for George W. Bush’s national campaigns.

Nearly a quarter worked in at least one of the Bush White Houses or received a presidential appointment; 24 were tapped by Mr. Bush’s father or brother to serve as ambassadors; 46 worked in Mr. Bush’s administration in Florida or were appointed to advisory boards. A number of donors belong to more than one of these categories.


Bush tried Saturday to regain his stride after an awkward week, noting his misstep about the Iraq war with humility and a laugh while reaffirming his affection for brother George W. Bush, the president who ordered the invasion.

Returning to early voting Iowa, Bush offered an explanation to voters for his confused statements on Iraq over the last week. He joked to an audience in Dubuque that his response to a reporter’s question about Iraq was “a great answer, by the way. But it wasn’t to the question that was asked.”

… “War is incredibly tough,” Bush told about 100 GOP activists and students at Loras College in Dubuque. “I know my brother, and you can see it in the bond, when I’m with him, with the veterans. … The bond he has with these men and women is extraordinary.”

— “To Iowa G.O.P., Jeb Bush appears to be ignoring the family playbook” via Trip Gabriel of the New York Times


… (M)any supporters are getting jittery because he appeared ill-equipped to appreciate and manage the demands of the modern-day, 24-hour news cycle. And, they note, this isn’t the first time Bush has floundered over what he believes – a waffling that could undermine his reputation as a deep-thinking ideas man comfortable in his own skin, one who decries politicians “who just bend with the wind.”

… Change the dates and the topic, and Bush’s multiple explanations and prolonged waffling are much like what happened to him in describing the Iraq War to FOX’s Megan Kelly, who asked last Saturday if he would have invaded Iraq “knowing what we know now.” Bush said yes and falsely said Hillary Clinton would have done the same thing.

… “Jeb doesn’t surround himself with yes men. But he hates being handled, and this is what happens when you don’t have a real campaign, when you don’t have someone who manages the candidate because he’s not really a candidate,” said one longtime Bush-backing Republican. “And even if Jeb was prepared, if he had his talking points, he obviously didn’t prepare enough.”

— “Bush’s tough week exposes challenges for his likely 2016 bid” via Steve Peoples, Thomas Beaumont and Julie Pace of the Associated Press.

BUSH IS ADAM SMITH’S LOSER OF THE WEEK IN FLORIDA POLITICS — “If Bush loses the Republican presidential nomination, we will look back at last week as the first clear sign he was not ready for the big stage.”

SALLY BRADSHAW PUSHES BACK, SAYS JEB HELD TO DIFFERENT STANDARD via Byron York: “Jeb doesn’t fear taking risks or making mistakes … He’s always believed public service is about actually serving the public, and doing so on a very personal level requires putting yourself in the arena.” The result of that belief, Bradshaw continued, is that “He engages. He doesn’t back away. He doesn’t worry about the impact of having an honest conversation or thinking something through and taking a thoughtful approach.”


In interviews with more than half a dozen Republican foreign policy hands and veterans of the George W. Bush administration, the reaction to Jeb’s dithering on Iraq ranged from disappointment to disbelief. 

No, it was not handled well by Gov. Bush… I don’t know why he said what he did,” said Ari Fleischer … “Making a basic misstep like that with a question that was perfectly, 100% predictable is frankly astonishing,” said Randy Scheunemann, a former adviser to defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld … ‘It does not bode well for his candidacy.”


Bush reiterated in a new interview that he doesn’t believe that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right.

The high court is expected to rule next month on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, and court observers and justices have hinted in recent weeks that the court is likely to expand marriage rights to gay men and lesbians.

Speaking with “The Brody File” on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Bush described marriage between a man and a woman as “a sacrament,” one of the seven significant ceremonies of the Catholic faith.

“It’s at the core of the Catholic faith, and to imagine how we are going to succeed in our country unless we have committed family life, a committed child-centered family system, is hard to imagine,” he said. “So, irrespective of the Supreme Court ruling — because they are going to decide whatever they decide, I don’t know what they are going to do — we need to be stalwart supporters of traditional marriage.”

He told CBN’s David Brody that he doesn’t believe same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, “but I’m not a lawyer and clearly this has been accelerated at a warp pace. What’s interesting is four years ago Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had the same view that I just expressed to you. It’s thousands of years of culture and history just being changed at warp speed. It’s hard to fathom why it is this way.”


TWEET, TWEET: @TheRickWilson: This was one of the most focused and unified #RPOF quarterlies I can recall…props to @[email protected] and the RPOF team.

FLA GOP SETS 2016 PREZ PRIMARY AS “WINNER-TAKE-ALL” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Members of the state GOP’s executive board approved new rules decreeing that when Florida holds its presidential primary next March 15, 99 delegates will be awarded “winner-take-all,” rather than proportionally. Ultimately winning the nomination requires winning enough delegates, and if Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio have struggled to win delegates in earlier primary contest, Florida could be a crucial life-line.

And in the unlikely event that Bush and Rubio are still the leading contenders by next March, Florida’s primary could be an epic contest.

“With Florida’s immense size and diverse population, any campaign that can mount a successful state-wide effort in Florida will be well positioned to run a truly national campaign come 2016,” said state Republican party chairman Blaise Ingoglia. “Florida will now be the first winner-take-all primary in the country. This ensures that all presidential campaigns will have to spend a considerable amount of time in Florida speaking to Republicans from Pensacola to Key West and everywhere in-between.”

Ingoglia promised an all-out effort to deliver Florida’s must-win 29 electoral votes to the Republican nominee.


Quarterly meetings usually bring in Republican lawmakers from both the House and the Senate. Senate President Andy Gardiner has made appearances at recent meetings, flanked by other top Republicans in the upper chamber.

Not this weekend. Senators were noticeably absent from the party’s spring quarterly meeting.

Ingoglia’s takeover of the party ruffled feathers among the RPOF. Not only did a handful of staffers resign following his rise to power, but the committee which coordinates Republican Senate campaigns left the RPOF office and shifted $800,000 into a committee run by Gardiner.

Gov. Rick Scott also pulled $600,000 out of the RPOF once Ingoglia took over.

Surprise, surprise — Scott didn’t show up at this weekend’s quarterly meeting, either.

The no-shows demonstrate the scars are still there.


Chances are good that U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis will have a primary opponent as he seeks Rubio’s Senate seat, and four people also considering a run were at the Republican Party of Florida’s quarterly meeting Saturday gauging interest for possible campaigns.

Several people are eyeing the open seat created by Rubio’s decision to run for the Republican presidential nomination, from U.S. Rep. David Jolly … to former Attorney General Bill McCollum …

Also at the party meeting were Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who has already set up a political committee to raise money as he considers a run, and U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, an eight-term congressman from Pensacola.

“I don’t know what their future plans are, but I do know that they … chose to be at the RPOF quarterly,” said state party Chairman Blaise Ingoglia.

Lopez-Cantera said he used the two-day meeting to talk to grassroots supporters and potential donors about a possible campaign.

“Florida is not a state where you can make this decision quickly,” said Lopez-Cantera, who added his experience working with Gov. Scott will benefit him if he runs. “One of the things that’s motivating me to consider this is we have a playbook that’s proven to work here in Florida and maybe there should be a voice on that playbook in DC.”

So far DeSantis is the only announced candidate. He was expected to attend the meeting but campaign adviser Barney Keller said the congressman had a family emergency.

PIC DU JOUR via Sarah Rumpf from the RPOF Quarterly: Jeff Atwater and Lopez-Cantera, which Rumpf captioned, “So, you busy?”

TOP QUOTE FROM RPOF QUARTERLY via Lopez-Cantera with a h/t George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post: “I have an 8-1/2 inch barrel M16 in my safe. I’ve gone through the Class 3 process. I have a 100 percent voting record with the NRA. I’m a huge, huge Second Amendment guy,”

TOP QUOTE FROM RPOF QUARTERLY – PART 2 via Jolly: “This is not unlike 2010, when you saw some key races in Delaware and Nevada and a couple other states where the candidates that were nominated had trouble articulating a message that everybody across the state could appreciate.”

 Patrick Murphy visits Daytona Beach as he seeks Senate seat” via Austin Fuller of the Daytona Beach News-Journal


Rep. Janet Cruz … who’s in line to become House Democratic leader after the 2016 elections, says U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson … should apologize for his recent “over-the-top, profane tirade” to a Florida reporter.

Cruz is one of dozens of elected Dems from around the state endorsing the 2016 Senate bid of U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. Grayson, the liberal firebrand who’s also expected to enter the Democratic primary, used words the PostOnPolitics blog can’t print when Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times asked about a pair of hedge funds Grayson set up in the Cayman Islands.

In response to the recent articles, Cruz said: “I call on Alan Grayson to apologize for his over-the-top, profane tirade. It is an embarrassment to the Democratic Party for an elected member of Congress to use every four-letter word in the book to describe his fellow colleagues, members of the Senate, and the media. His discourse and temperament have no place in a United States Senate race.”

TWEET OF THE WEEKEND Actually it’s not a Tweet, it’s a new Twitter avatar for the Tampa Bay Times‘ Adam Smith inspired by his recent coverage of Alan Grayson. Check it out here.

TOD MOWERY ENTERS CONGRESSIONAL RACE via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Republican St. Lucie County Commissioner Tod Mowery has entered the race for the open Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional seat of Rep. Patrick Murphy.

Mowery, elected twice in the Democrat-leaning county, is a former assistant town manager in Jupiter and owns a landscape architecture and planning firm. He is chairman of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council.

Mowery joins former state Rep. Carl Domino and Martin County School Board member Rebecca Negron in the Republican race for the District 18 seat that Murphy is leaving to run for Senate.

Democratic Palm Beach County Commissioners Priscilla Taylor and Melissa McKinlay are also running in District 18. And retired enginer John (Juan) Xuna has opened a Democratic campaign.

THE RETURN OF RON REAGAN? via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Former State Rep. Reagan confirmed he is considering getting back into state politics.

Five years after his tenure in the Legislature came to an end, Reagan said he is thinking about running for what essentially would be the old district he used to represent.

If State Rep. Greg Steube leaves his House seat early to run for the Florida Senate in 2016, it would open his District 73 seat up. That District includes much of Sarasota and Manatee east of Interstate 75, including Lakewood Ranch.

Steube has said he would likely run for the Senate in 2016 instead of re-election if State Sen. Nancy Detert leaves early to run for the Sarasota County Commission in 2016 instead.

Reagan is not the only one weighing a campaign for District 73. Sarasota Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters has said he is very interested in running and plans to make an announcement soon.

If Reagan and Gruters ran, they would have to battle in a Republican primary in August 2016.

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FAMILIAR COLLEGE AVENUE SITE GETS NEW LIFE via Gerald Ensley of the Tallahassee Democrat

William Deeb is smiling somewhere. The College Avenue building that housed his women’s hat shop for 40 years, and in recent years was home to two restaurants, is getting a total makeover.

The building at 222-224 E. College Avenue, now dubbed College Station, is getting a facelift by its new owners, the Southern Strategy Group, a lobbying firm. Two eateries, a restaurant/bar and a noodle bar, will occupy the street level. The second floor will become leased office space and a three-bedroom apartment, which will be used by out-of-town members of the Southern Strategy Group.

Scaffolding went up and construction began last week. The project, which will include second-floor balconies over the street, is expected to be completed by August.

Southern Strategy Group has 25 lobbyists, with offices in Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando, Miami and Tallahassee. It lobbies for a range of clients from Disney World and the Florida Sheriffs Association to numerous health care organizations.

“The partners really love downtown Tallahassee and think it’s a unique place,” said Chris Dudley, the group’s managing partner. “The opportunity to own something in downtown Tallahassee doesn’t come often. So when the space opened up, we were excited. It’s a unique opportunity to reshape downtown.”


Fred Leonhardt, GrayRobinson: Millennium Health

Lori Killinger, Martin Lyon: Lewis Longman & Walker: Minto Communities

Ramon Maury: Florida Acupuncture Association

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Mike Miller and lobbyist Trevor Mask.

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.