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: On this Mother’s Day weekend, let’s remember the “Mother of Miami,” Julia DeForest Tuttle. After purchasing 640 acres of what is now downtown Miami, Tuttle eventually convinced Henry Flagler to extend his new railroad to the Miami River. The City of Miami was incorporated in 1896, two years before Tuttle died. Her name lives on via the Julia Tuttle Causeway crossing Biscayne Bay, and a statue honors her in Bayfront Park. Tuttle is widely recognized as the only Mom – er, female founder of a major American city.
DAYS UNTIL Mother’s Day: 2; Jacksonville’s Mayoral Election: 11; Debut of Mad Max: Fury Road: 6; Special Session 23; Sine Die: 43; Major League Baseball All-Star game: 66; Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuts: 224; First Day of 2016 Legislative Schedule: 249; Iowa Caucuses: 269: Florida’s Presidential Primary: 311; Florida’s 2016 Primary Election: 480; Florida’s 2016 General Election: 551.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to rising star Jennifer Gaviria of Capital City Consulting. Celebrating today is Ashley Walker, one of — if not the — best Democratic political consultants in Florida. Also celebrating is perhaps the best Cate/Ray of them all, Elizabeth. Early birthday wishes to our good friend, Ryan Wiggins.
TWEET OF THE DAY: The answer to every “crisis” isn’t to further burden the public but to resolve what CAUSED the “crisis”. We need COSTFix not FHIX.
STORY YOU WON’T READ IN SUNBURN: “Marco Rubio headlines fundraiser for policy group that supports conversion therapy” via BuzzFeed.
AMERICAN BRIDGE’S NEW REPORT DETAILS KOCH BROTHERS INFLUENCE IN FLORIDA via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics
The enormously wealthy and powerful Charles and David Koch, better known as the Koch Brothers, have become an increasingly influential team in recent years as they spend their money on causes (and candidates) they support.
Now the Democratic super PAC for American Bridge 21st Century hopes that by linking them to Florida presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, they can hurt their chances in next year’s presidential election.
The group’s policy arm, American Bridge, released a report … Florida Man Buys State: Koch Impacts in the Sunshine State … a comprehensive look at how the Kochs’ operations have changed Florida politics. The report includes … relationship with Bush, Rubio and Gov. Scott … Americans for Prosperity hurts average Floridians, and how the Kochs have attempted to buy influence at institutions such as Florida State University.
In January, the political network overseen by the two conservative billionaires said it intends to spend close to $900 million in the 2016 election cycle … five candidates who they are thinking of supporting: Bush, Rubio, Scott Walker, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.
Last month, Skylar Zander, the Florida deputy director for Americans for Prosperity, told Venice Republican state Sen. Nancy Detert during a fiery exchange at a committee meeting that he “wished he got a ton of money from the Koch Brothers” but said they’re just one of thousands of donors to AFP.
NH POLL: MARCO RUBIO POPULAR IN GOP FIELD via University of New Hampshire
On the latest Granite State Poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center … Republican electorate is somewhat more interested in the 2016 primary than it was at a similar point in 2007, the last time both parties had contested primaries.
Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Scott Walker currently are the most popular candidates among New Hampshire Republican primary voters – 60% have a favorable opinion of Rubio, 51% have a favorable opinion of Paul and 50% have a favorable opinion of Walker. No other candidate breaks 50% in favorability ratings. The candidates with the highest unfavorable ratings are businessman Donald Trump (56% unfavorable), New Jersey governor Chris Christie (40%), former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum (37%), and Jeb Bush (34%).
Rubio and Walker lead the GOP field in net favorability (the percentage who have a favorable opinion of him or her minus the percentage who have an unfavorable opinion) among Republican primary voters. Rubio’s net favorability rating is +44%, up from +24% in February while Walker’s net favorability rating is +36%, up from +30% in February.
There continues to be no frontrunner in the Republican race. Currently, 15% of likely Republican primary voters support Bush, followed closely by Rubio (12%), Walker (11%), Paul (10%), Cruz (6%), Trump (5%), Perry (4%), Carson (4%), Fiorina (4%), Christie (3%), Huckabee (3%), Jindal (2%), Pataki (2%), Santorum (2%), Kasich (1%), and Graham (1%). All other potential candidates receive less than 1% support, and 14% say they are undecided.
“Bush, Rubio, Walker, and Paul seem to be separating themselves slightly from the rest of the field but this is likely due to press attention rather than any real campaign work,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the UNH Survey Center.
RUBIO CAMPAIGNS ON HIS IMMIGRANT STORY, CAUTIOUSLY via Jonathan Martin and Ashley Parker of the New York Times
As Rubio has introduced himself to curious, and overwhelmingly Caucasian, Republican audiences from Iowa to New Hampshire, he has vaulted to the front ranks of the early pack of likely presidential candidates, partly because of his natural political talent. But it may owe just as much to the combination of his personal story and the balm it offers to a party that has been repeatedly scalded by accusations of prejudice.
He says he is highlighting his background only to share his own twist on the American dream — not out of any desire to make history on behalf of Hispanics. But Mr. Rubio and those around him are also acutely aware of the sometimes raw tensions in his party, between those unsettled by an increasingly diverse society and those who say Republicans must embrace the multihued America of 2015.
To the party operatives and donors who have placed long bets on him, and to the rank-and-file primary voters he has impressed, Rubio’s candidacy seems to affirm the idea that, in a free market, anyone can rise without the benefit of connections or wealth. That he did so as the child of Latin American parents who fled an autocratic government and toiled in the humblest of jobs — maid and bartender — has sent some Republicans swooning.
A New York Times/CBS Poll this week found that 68 percent of Republicans think America is ready to elect a Hispanic president. And after nearly eight years in which Republicans have angrily disputed charges that their opposition to President Obama was rooted in racial animus, Rubio could serve as an unspoken, but forceful, rebuttal.
RUBIO TAX PLAN SHOWS CHALLENGE OF GOP WAGE-STAGNATION FIGHT via Nicholas Riccardi of the Associated Press
In the traffic jam that is the Republican presidential race … Rubio stands out — and not just for his youth and blue-collar, Cuban-American biography.
Rubio has issued the most detailed economic agenda to aid the middle class, anchored by a book on countering the wage stagnation that has exacerbated inequality between the rich and the rest. Rivals Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and others have similarly decried the growing gap between the haves and have-nots, signaling that Republicans are eager to address a traditionally Democratic issue after seven years of disappointing economic growth.
But the party’s challenges in doing so are laid bare by Rubio’s single biggest economic proposal — a massive tax cut bound to drive up the debt by as much as $4 trillion over the first decade.
That approach is in keeping with right-leaning economic thinking, that the best way to spark growth and increase wages is to reduce the tax burden on businesses, the wealthy and investors. But that has exposed Republicans to Democratic criticism that they favor the rich. Rubio is not exempt from that, despite presenting himself as a champion of the middle class.
His plan would set just two rates: 15 percent for those making less than $75,000 (or families earning under $150,000) and 35 percent for all making more. That would bring the top tax rate down only by four percentage points, not enough, some conservative economists complain, to stimulate growth adequately.
The plan replaces most deductions with a credit of up to $2,000 per filer and expands the child tax credit to $2500 to aid families, a long-held goal of some conservatives who complain the GOP’s tax policy is too focused on cutting top rates and not enough on helping regular Americans. Finally, the plan would reduce all corporate taxes to 25 percent and eliminates double taxation on business investment.
Grover Norquist, a prominent low-tax activist, praised Rubio’s tax plan, predicting its credits for middle class families would be enough to win voters’ support even if more benefit might go to the wealthy. “My 6-year-old worries her sister’s getting a bigger ice cream cone than she is,” Norquist said. “But most people are just happy to get an ice cream cone.”
— “Marco Rubio’s Plan to Build a Holy Hollywood in Florida” via BuzzFeed
ONE OF JEB BUSH’S TOP ADVISERS ON ISRAEL: GEORGE W. BUSH via Robert Costa and Matea Gold of the Washington Post
When asked this week at an exclusive Manhattan gathering about who advises him on U.S.-Israel policy, Jeb Bush surprised many of the 50-plus attendees by naming his brother, former president George W. Bush, as his most influential counselor. “If you want to know who I listen to for advice, it’s him,” Bush said … speaking to a crowd of high-powered financiers at the Metropolitan Club, according to four people present.
Embracing his brother as a foreign policy confidant is a risky and unexpected move for the former Florida governor as he readies for a likely presidential run. While George W. Bush’s approval ratings have improved since he left office in 2009, his foreign policy legacy — particularly the long war in Iraq — remains deeply unpopular. He has also become anathema to some conservative activists for presiding over an increase in the federal debt, among other policies.
JEB’S MONEY TOUR via Jonathan Topaz and Ben Schreckinger of POLITICO
Byron Trott, the former Goldman Sachs vice president and likely successor to Berkshire-Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, was just one of the money men rolling out the red carpet for Bush in Chicago … Former Motorola CEO Chris Galvin, Bush’s closest friend and adviser in Illinois and now the CEO of Harrison Street Capital, also served as a host for the fundraiser at the Union Street Club where the ask went from $2,500 for a ticket up to $250,000 contributions for Bush’s Right to Rise super PAC.
The Windy City swing comes a day after Bush spoke to roughly 50 donors at Manhattan’s swanky Metropolitan Club at an event sponsored by hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, who has hosted a number of 2016 GOP hopefuls.
“There’s a strong loyalty to the Bush family because so many of us are friendly with Bush 1 and Bush 2,” said one attendee, adding that Jeb has yet to close the sale. “There’s a certain skepticism that he may not be a great campaigner. Nobody wants to make the same mistake we made with Romney, who could have won if he’d run a better campaign.”
PINELLAS COUNTY SHAPES GOP U.S. SENATE FIELD via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times
Conventional wisdom has it that the strongest statewide candidates in Florida come from the big population centers, particularly the Tampa Bay or Orlando areas. That’s part of the reason why some Republicans are encouraging Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Rocks Beach in Pinellas to run for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination … recent Mason-Dixon poll showed him ahead of every other Republican prospect save former Attorney Gen. Bill McCollum.
Residing in north Florida like, say, Republican senate candidate U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis … and potential U.S. Senate candidate U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller … is generally viewed as a significant drawback. Turns out, though, that both DeSantis and Miller have deep Pinellas County ties — deeper roots in fact than even Jolly …
Miller is a native of Pinellas who attended Ponce De Leon Elementary, Largo Jr High, and Largo Sr High. He is descended from the pioneering McMullen family which came to Pinellas in the 1850s on a wagon bound from Quitman, Ga.. That was when Pinellas was still Hillsborough County. His grandmother Nancy McLaughlin’s 1868 house is in Heritage village, a popular historic park frequently visited by students and history buffs. Miller’s father, Spencer Miller, a World War II Navy veteran is buried in Largo Cemetery.
DeSantis … grew up in Dunedin … is still widely remembered a star baseball player. In 1991 he helped lead the Dunedin Little League to the Little League World Series, and later led Dunedin High to the Florida state championships.
CURT CLAWSON FLIPPED SHARES IN IPO DESPITE US LAW via Jeff Horwitz of the Associated Press
A multimillionaire, first-term Florida congressman flipped shares in a solar company the same day he acquired them in an initial public offering, despite a federal law that generally prohibits members of Congress from participating in IPOs.
Republican Rep. Curt Clawson, who gave the tea party’s response to the president’s State of the Union address earlier this year, earned less than $700 profit on the sale of less than $15,000 in shares of SolarEdge Technologies Inc. of Fremont, California, according to financial records and Clawson’s spokesman, David James.
And James says the trade on March 26 was lawful. “We feel like every requirement of the law was met,” he said.
Despite the small stakes, however, the trade may test a provision of a 2012 law, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act. Known as the Stock Act, it was intended to prevent members of Congress and legislative employees from using inside information or profiting in unseemly ways. One provision bans lawmakers and staff members from buying stock during initial offerings unless the same opportunity is “available to members of the public generally.”
The House Ethics Committee has twice formally reminded lawmakers that the general public is rarely allowed to participate in IPOs, and it advises members of Congress to ask its advice in advance to determine whether such a purchase by them would be permissible.
Investment banks and brokerages traditionally reserve IPOs for their favored customers.
JACK LATVALA HIRES MEREDITH O’ROURKE AS SENATE PRESIDENT RACE REMAINS DEADLOCKED
Locked in a fierce rivalry with fellow Republican Joe Negron to be the next President of the Florida Senate, Pinellas state Senator Jack Latvala has hired top GOP fundraiser Meredith O’Rourke to shake trees for his Florida Leadership Committee.
O’Rourke is the top fundraiser for Governor Rick Scott and his political committee, Let’s Get To Work. She helped Scott raise a colossal $100 million for his re-election.
The hiring of O’Rourke is the latest signal from Latvala that he does not believe that the race for Senate President is anywhere close to being decided.
Not that Latvala has any had trouble raising money for his committee. During the last month before lawmakers were barred from raising money during legislative session, Latvala raised $498,949 in February and expended just $54,273.
That left Latvala’s committee with over $920,000 cash-on-hand — more than enough money to play in 2016’s legislative primaries.
Add O’Rourke’s fundraising prowess to Latvala’s efforts will certainly keep the committee treasurer, Nancy Watkins, busy.
Not to be outdone or outgunned, Negron has hired Ashley Ross away from the Republican Party of Florida. Ross, officially a SaintPetersBlog “Rising Star of Florida Politics” was the chief fundraiser for Senate campaign arm of the Florida GOP.
FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY TAPES BRICE BARNES AS NEW FINANCE DIRECTOR via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics
The Florida Democratic Party on Thursday announced it will bring Brice Barnes on board to serve as the party’s new finance director.
Barnes comes to Florida after years working in North Carolina, previously serving in similar roles with U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan – who lost her pivotal swing state Senate seat to Sen. Thom Tillis back in November during a difficult mid-term cycle for Democrats – Gov. Bev Purdue and a host of Tar Heel state congressional Dems including Rep. Alma Adams and pop star-turned-candidate Clay Aiken, who ran in the state’s 2nd Congressional District last year.
Barnes, a mother of two, is the founder of Greenprint Strategies, a “political strategy and fundraising firm focused on working with progressive candidates and organizations.”
Florida Democrats are hoping her success can translate across state boundaries. Barnes joins the party at a strategically sensitive time, as legislative Republicans are at odds with each other and with Gov. Rick Scott as they prepare to reconvene in Tallahassee for a special Session, having failed to pass a budget in May.
ERIC EISNAUGLE DRAWS 19-YEAR-OLD CHALLENGER IN HD 44 via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics
Potential Speaker-to-be Eric Eisnaugle has now drawn a challenger: Democrat Scott Cox, a 19-year-old first-time candidate.
The challenge was first reported by Frank Torres in The Orlando Political Observer.
As a physics major attending Valencia Community College, Cox cites “proven leadership” on his campaign website for his roles with the Democratic National Committee, American Atheists and Mensa International. He attends Mormon services at the Olympia Church of Latter-Day Saints.
Still, the Orlando-area District 44 favors Republicans and is not likely to be seriously targeted by state Democrats.
SAVE THE DATE: Lenny Curry’s final fundraising push will be Tuesday, May 12 at San Jose Country Club located at 7529 San Jose Blvd. The event begins 8:00 a.m. Organizers are asking each host to raise or give $1,000; the suggested contribution is $500 per person $1,000 per couple. RSVP with Melissa Langley at Melissa@thefiorentinogroup.com or (904) 358-2757.
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RICK SCOTT SEEKS IMMEDIATE ACTION IN HEALTHCARE LAWSUIT via Kathleen McGrory of the Miami Herald
Scott took another jab at the Obama Administration … asking the court to take immediate action in his lawsuit against federal healthcare officials.
The lawsuit, filed last week in federal court, alleges that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is trying to coerce Florida into expanding Medicaid by threatening to end a $2.2 billion program that helps hospitals pay for uncompensated care.
The Republican governor now wants a court-ordered injunction to stop federal health officials from tying the two programs.
“Unless this unconstitutional coercion is redressed, it will have immediate and devastating consequences for Florida, its healthcare providers, and its residents,” Scott’s attorneys wrote.
HHS has long maintained that Medicaid expansion is a state decision.
The agency says it is willing to work with Florida to address uncompensated care, regardless of the state’s Medicaid expansion status. But top federal health officials have also said they want Florida to expand health insurance coverage, which would reduce the need for the so-called Low Income Pool, or LIP.
LAWMAKERS SEND DOZENS OF BILLS TO SCOTT; LET’S GET TO WORK via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post
Despite the lowest production in at least 17 years, the Florida Legislature gave Gov. Scott a pile of work all at once.
Lawmakers sent Scott 68 bills to consider — more than a quarter of the two-month legislative session’s full output of 231 bills. Scott has until May 22 to act on the measures.
They include an online voter registration bill pushed by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, another that lifts a Florida prohibition on 64-ounce beer “growlers,” local pension changes, penalties for online “revenge porn,” and legislation that makes it OK for rural letter carriers to drive without a seat belt.
BILLS NOW ON SCOTT’S DESK
A bill meant to crack down on posting sexually explicit photos of exes and former lovers by stiffening the penalties … Under SB 538, if approved, it would be a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and $1,000, the first time a person posts to a website an explicit image of another person. All subsequent offenses will rate a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.
[A] bill that makes it illegal for law enforcement to have traffic ticket quotas … so-called “Waldo” bill … nickname comes from the city of Waldo on heavily travelled U.S. 301, once considered one of the nation’s worst speed traps … police officers disclosed a quota system and it was reported that tickets accounted for nearly half of the city’s revenue. The police force has since been disbanded.
SB 248, which creates a new public record exemption making a body camera recording by police exempt from public record disclosure when the recording is taken: Within the interior of a private residence; The interior of a mental health care or social service facility; In a place that a reasonable person would expect to be private.
A measure sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes aimed at increasing flexibility and lowering premiums on insurance premiums … SB 1094 … would allow insurance companies and those seeking coverage by flood policies to deviate from federal guidelines set forth by the National Flood Insurance Program, provided both agree to the terms.
A bill that allows unlicensed people to carry concealed weapons or firearms on their body or in the car during emergencies and evacuations … SB 290 would allow concealed weapons “while in the act of complying” with a mandatory evacuation order issued during a state of emergency declared by the governor, or declared by a local authority.
A bill to allow online voting registration sponsored by Sen. Jeff Clemens. “The bill accomplishes the same things the Governor said he set out to do from day one: make government more efficient, data more secure and save taxpayer dollars,” said Clemens.
If you happen to own your own drone to take photos of other Floridians on their property, you better stop it soon — unless you want to get sued. SB 766 … states that drones cannot be used to photograph or record images of people or their property from the air. The restrictions would also apply to state and local governments.
FLORIDA FAMILY ACTION URGES SCOTT TO VETO ADOPTION BILL via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics
Social conservatives in Florida are urging Scott to veto an adoption bill because it lacks a “conscience protection” provision for faith-based adoption and foster care agencies.
CS-HB 7013 was a bill strongly supported by Senate President Andy Gardiner as the session began. It re-creates a program to provide a financial benefit of $5,000 or $10,000 to state employees who adopt foster children, as well as provide incentives to community-based care lead agencies and their subcontractors for achieving specified adoption performance standards.
But the bill became a flashpoint after Miami Beach Democrat David Richardson added an amendment early in the session that repealed the 1977 law banning same-sex adoptions in the state. Such adoptions have been legal in the state since 2010, but Richardson’s amendment would repeal that language in state law.
Once the bill passed with the repeal of the gay adoption ban included, Sanford Republican Jason Brodeur quickly introduced a new and controversial “conscience protection” bill that would allow private adoption agencies in Florida to be able to turn away same-sex couples based on religious and moral beliefs.
Called the Conscience Protection for Actions of Private Child-Placing Agencies bill (SB 7111), the legislation passed in the House but found opposition in the Senate, ultimately dying in committee.
Now Florida Family Action, the socially conservative group led by John Stemberger, is telling their members via email to contact Gov. Scott to veto the adoption bill, because it doesn’t include that conscience protection.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Melanie Bostick, Thomas Hobbs, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: Advanced Energy Economy
Jamie Mongiovi: Office of Financial Regulation
Bert Lewis Combs, Radey Law Firm: Auto-Owners Insurance Company
Nicole Fried, Nicole Graganella, Trevor Mask, Colodny Fass: Grandiflora; Osceola Legislative Effort; Johnson University, Inc.; Miami Dade Limestone Products Association
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CONTEXT FLORIDA: FLORIDA NEW MAJORITY, JAMEIS WINSTON, AMENDMENT 1 AND EARLY RELEASE
On Context Florida: Until people of color grow into a “Florida New Majority” and change the culture, Daniel Tilson says will be putting up with a government that not only reflects, but leans into the racism that still grips a large chunk of white Florida — the Christian, hardcore conservative base of the Republican Party. Bob Sparks discusses how the Jameis Winston sideshow will now relocate from Tallahassee to Tampa. State Sen. Wilton Simpson says because of the legislative impasse, no comprehensive legislation relating to Amendment 1 has yet been passed. Yet, he remains confident that in the budget consideration over the next several weeks, lawmakers will have another opportunity to work to ensure protection of Florida’s natural resources. There are differing views on how to accomplish this goal. Attorney Reggie Garcia says that with nearly 101,000 individuals in 56 Florida state prisons and numerous annexes and work camps, inmates, families and supporters, lawyers, and other advocates should be aware of early-release options and strategies.
Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: “Eliminating health disparities in minority communities” with Dr. Liza Merritt, executive director of the Multicultural Health Institute.
Facing Florida with Mike Vasilinda: Senate President Andy Gardiner previews the upcoming Special Session… and perhaps the one after that.
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.
Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Sen. Jack Latvala, plus analysts Michelle Ertel and Jeremiah Jaspon break down the 2016 Presidential and U.S. Senate elections.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Mayor Buddy Dyer discussing funding for the Orlando City soccer stadium and homelessness in Orange County.
ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA
Trimmel Gomes’ newest episode of The Rotunda tackles lies, lawsuits and latest twists in Florida’s healthcare debate with founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, Carol Gentry.
If you think Rick Scott is bad, Tampa Bay Times Columnist John Romano puts it all in perspective with his list of contenders for the worst governor in Florida history.
When it comes to lawmakers pushing bills tied to their outside jobs, Integrity Florida’s Ben Wilcox explains why ethical lines are so blurry for Florida’s legislators. Despite Jeb Bush’s lead over Marco Rubio in latest New Hampshire poll, a discussion on why GOP candidates will have to keep a watchful eye on rise of Rubio. Is there too much “pandering” to Latinos?
The Daily Show takes a few jabs at Jeb Bush, or as they call him “El Jebe.”
COULD FLORIDA BECOME THE US’S SOCCER CAPITAL? via Simon Veness of The Guardian
The Sunshine State’s perception of the great soccer proselytisation of America is far more complex than a single cry of something amazing, although “Bingo!” or “Geronimo!” might be equally apt. Yet, in simple terms, it is not far from stating the basic truth that the sport is fast becoming Florida’s great infatuation, a fan movement potentially to eclipse all others.
Just consider these figures: 157,160; 24,311; 21,869; 12,470; and 57%.
Those are the total home attendances so far this season for Orlando City (four games); Jacksonville Armada (two games); Fort Lauderdale Strikers (three games); and Tampa Bay Rowdies (two games). The final figure is the rise in attendance for Florida’s three NASL teams to date.
The NASL has seen almost across-the-board increases in its first few weeks of 2015, but the figures for the league’s three Florida teams, in conjunction with those of the lone MLS franchise, indicate a considerable proliferation of interest in soccer throughout the state.
Look around the rest of the US and, while there are strong regional pockets of football fervour, nowhere is going quite so gaga across a single state as Florida, and it is certainly not all Orlando-driven. The Armada’s opening-day attendance of 16,164 this month was a modern-era record for the NASL while the Strikers’ crowd of 11,691 was their best since their rebirth four years ago by almost 4,000.
The Rowdies weighed in with a highly respectable figure for their first home game of the season – almost 4,000 above their 2014 average – and it seems clear there is a genuine ground-surge at work, a rising tide of support that has no one single common denominator and yet is threatening to make Florida the nation’s soccer capital.
Need more clues on the trail of this phenomenon? How about the fact that three Sunshine State cities – Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville – have all made bids to host Copa America Centenario games in 2016. The only other state with three contenders is California, which has twice the population and more ready-made stadiums.
UNIVERSAL TO OPEN HUGE NEW KING KONG ATTRACTION via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times
A giant new King Kong attraction is coming to Universal Orlando next summer, the theme park announced The head of the theme park’s creative team called it an immersive experience that “defies categorization” …
Skull Island: Reign of Kong will open in summer 2016 in Islands of Adventure, and it’s already a looming presence between Jurassic Park and Toon Lagoon. This adds to a steady building boom at Universal, already profiting from its Harry Potter attractions. The company has vowed to bring new theme park attractions year after year.
The investment has paid off handsomely so far … parent company Comcast reported its theme park business saw quarterly revenues rise 34 percent to $651 million.
Universal appears to be gaining on the Mouse, if slightly. Since the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in 2010, Walt Disney World’s market share has dropped from 74.9 to 71.3 percent, with Universal’s market share increasing from 16 to 20.8 percent, according to a 2014 study by Themed Entertainment Association and the consulting company AECOM.
After the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened, the theme park’s fortunes changed drastically. Attendance jumped 20 percent and per-person spending was in double digits as well.