The week that was in Florida politics — in one read

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Of the millions of sound bites generated in Florida politics this week of August 26-30, these bubbled to the surface:


Florida’s consumer confidence level was unchanged in August, matching July’s revised reading of 77, according to a University of Florida survey. July’s level was the first time confidence had declined after four months of increases.

The housing market continued to rebound in Florida this week, according to data unveiled by the Florida Realtors and replayed via Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News. In July, there were closed sales on more than 21,200 single-family homes across the Sunshine State, an increase of almost 21 percent from July 2012. Pending sales are also on the rise, with almost 26 percent more pending sales last month than in July 2012.

Regarding a different kind of market of the same name, Josh Kraushaar of National Journal offered, “The House is off the market” — i.e. despite suggestions that the US House could be in play for 2014, both parties fare evenly on the generic ballot. The upper chamber is the one looking in play on Election Night.

The US will hit the debt limit in Mid-October. According to The Washington Post, “The United States is set to run out of borrowing authority in mid-October, leaving the government at a high risk of not being able to pay for Social Security checks, military salaries and other operations.”

Context Florida, an opinion forum described as a “bustling cacophony of smart ideas” by editor Peter Schorsch, launched Monday with an impressive 12,700 hits, and finished the week having signed 31 writers, including columns by Doug Clifton, former LG Jeff Kottkamp, and Sen. Jeff Clemens.  Visit the site here. Follow Context Florida on Twitter @ContextFL. Like Context Florida on Facebook.

Telemedicine advocates convened in Jacksonville at Mayo Clinic. They were led by Reps. Cary Pigman and Mia Jones, and joined by members of the Florida Medical Association in their prep  for a 2014 push.

Via POLITICO Influence, political robocalls are legal and specifically exempt from the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call list. But one entrepreneur has developed a device that would block illegal robocalls – and give users the option to opt out of (legal) political calls as well. It’s a private sector solution to something that’s been debated in Congress. 

Colin Powel called the Zimmerman verdict “questionable” but said that cases like Martin’s “blaze across the midnight sky” and are forgotten.  Powell says America still has a long way toward racial equality.  Americans agree: just 54% of NBC poll respondents agreed that America is a nation where people are judged by their character, not their skin color.

A Scripps Treasure Coast Newspaper investigation uncovered emails from Ken Pruitt’s private account for lobbying business during the property appraiser office’s business hours. St. Lucie County taxpayers paid Pruitt $124,003 in 2012. He received a total of $356,077 in income in from his private sector jobs.

Via Wayne Price of Florida Today, the Melbourne Greyhound Park and Club 52 want to decouple racing and gambling, citing a report released Tuesday by Spectrum Gaming, the firm hired by the state to look at the potential for expanding gambling operations in Florida.

Joe Clements of Decision Media Works used Google Trends to show that other than Floridians looking to vacation in-state, people from Mississippi and the Ohio valley regions are more interested in Florida vacations than the more populated Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions.

Rep. Linda Stewart filed a bill (HB 13) to allow county voters to decide on a $3-per-day fee on rental cars; Sen. Chris Smith filed a bill to change Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law and eliminate what he calls the ‘last man standing’ loophole; Rep. Darren Soto filed a bill to give priority to homestead buyers over investors; and Sen. Dorothy Hukill filed a bill to cut taxes for corporations and banks.

Florida is at the vanguard of the autonomous car future, thanks to Sen. Jeff Brandes and his colleagues; and “Florida must have a conversation about innovative transportation”, according to Ben Kirby in a column for Context Florida.

Water remained a hot topic in this week’s news. Via Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News, Florida media need to crank up coverage of water crises; and via Jim McClellan on Context Florida, there is more at stake than oysters in Apalachicola water Wars. Great line: “People are more important than oysters,” they’ll say (while making a loud raspberry noise). “Suck mud, bivalves.”  

The federal Department of Justice will not challenge marijuana legalization in Colorado or Washington, and the Treasury and IRS will recognize all gay marriages.


Dan Krassner, executive director of the independent government watchdog group Integrity Florida, claims that the basic premises of Gov. Scott’s email transparency ‘Sunburst’ program have not been kept and rather, that they discourage people’s desire to send communication to and from the office.

Gov. Scott’s Education Summit commenced in Clearwater this week, covering issues such as state standards, student assessments, school grades and teacher evaluations.  Rep. Ray Pilon vocalized criticism of Common Core standards, running at odds with much of the rest of the region’s delegation and key GOP leaders.  Scott quickly pledged to carry out some of the suggestions through either executive orders or by pursuing new laws during the 2014 session, but did not say which ones.

Scott himself didn’t show at the Summit.

Meanwhile, Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times questions why Scott will be speaking at the Americans for Prosperity Summit this weekend, questioning whether the governor is worried about his base.

Gary Swoope, Florida’s Secretary of Commerce and president and CEO of Enterprise Florida, sat with Sachs Media Group’s Alia Faraj-Johnson to discuss job creation. Swoope said that more than 350 economic development projects have been won during Scott’s tenure.

This week, Gov. Scott directed the state to invest $90 million to boost water flow to the Everglades and to protect estuaries through a project to replace a segment of Tamiami Trail with a bridge. The funds will be matched by the feds.

Scott also announced Wednesday that that National Air Cargo Holdings, Inc., a global cargo logistics provider, and its subsidiary, National Airlines, has relocated its headquarters and airline offices to Orlando. The two year project will create 105 new jobs and $875,000 in capital investment to the community.   


In St. Pete: Incumbent Bill Foster and Rick Kriseman, the former Democratic state legislator, will face off in the Nov. 5 general election to decide who will be the city’s next mayor.   In the District 4 City Council primary, Darden Rice will face Carolyn Fries in the November general election. In the District 6 race, City Council Chairman Karl Nurse garnered 3,876 votes, or 69.2 percent of the 5,598 cast, and will face Sharon Russ, who took 1,043 votes, or 18.6 percent.  District 8 voters will choose between Amy Foster, who collected 2,847 votes of the 5,088 cast, compared to Steve Galvin’s 933 votes. That’s a differential of 56. percent to 18.3 percent.

US Rep. Patrick Murphy’s packed more than two dozen district events into four days last week, much to the annoyance of Republican congressional candidate Ellen Andel. Via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post, Andel was irked that none of the events was a traditional, ask-anything town hall meeting.

Andel is one of three Republicans who have opened campaigns for Murphy’s seat; and speculation has risen that Adam Hasner will join the field too. Hasner has been making the rounds at GOP events.   Meanwhile, Gayle Harrell announced that she would not seek this seat.

Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez dropped out of the race for Mayor after a series of miscues by staffers.  @MarcACaputo: Short-lived Miami mayoral campaign of @FrancisSuarez=case study in how immature staffers can kill a campaign

Ben Sorensen, a businessman, pastor, community activist and officer in the Navy Reserve, filed to enter the race to replace term-limited Rep. Joe Gibbons.  He joins Joe Geller, Alex Lewy and John Paul Alvarez who are seeking the Democratic nomination.

Alex Sink’s uncertainty about whether to re-run for governor may be a factor to some voters. Via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, former Pinellas GOP chairman Paul Bedinghaus said in a WEDU interview, “Alex Sink is a terrific lady and a very capable CFO. But when I’m voting for somebody, I don’t want to vote for somebody that’s a reluctant candidate. I want someone that has the passion in their gut to serve this state…”

Despite speculation by Adam Smith and Steve Bosquet, John Thrasher denies any communication with the governor or his staff regarding a possible LG ask.

Via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post, Josh Izaak filed to run against Rep. Kevin Rader in the Democratic primary, accusing Rader of being too close to the insurance agency.

Alan Cohn, a former investigative reporter at WFTS-Ch. 28, filed to run as against Rep. Dennis Ross to represent Florida’s 15th Congressional district, reports Eric Deggans of the Tampa Bay Times.

Qualifying opened and closed in the special election to replace former Rep. Mike Fasano, House District 36.  The four candidates are Republicans Bill Gunter, Jeromy Harding, and James Mathieu, and Democrat Amanda Murphy. Gunter shows a strong lead in the polls.

Shaun Raja, a businessman and political activist, filed this week to run for the open seat in the Florida House currently held by Rep. Steve Precourt who faces term limits next year. 

Via William March of the Tampa Tribune, as recently as six months ago, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio were among the top three or four candidates, sometimes at the very top, in nearly every poll of Republicans on the 2016 presidential nomination… Today, things look different. Both have dropped in polls, and some prominent analysts aren’t even including Bush in their rankings because of questions about whether he’ll run. 

Seth McKeel is eyeing the CFO race in 2018 when Atwater is term-limited out, according to  Bill Rufty of the Ledger.

State Sen. Jeff Clemens, writing for Context Florida: “Why Charlie Crist needs people like me” — will core Democratic constituents warm to Crist in time to mobilize the grassroots efforts that Barack Obama was able to use in 2012?


The Dolphins were defeated by the Bucs this week. But if ‘Fins owner Steve Ross has his way, Rick Scott won’t see the same fate in 2014.  Gov. Scott fundraised over the weekend at Ross’ Hamptoms home.

In the past month, four super PACs were formed by people younger than 35, reports Andrea Drusch of POLITICO.  Super PACs from both parties share the view that national candidates either don’t align with their views, or they don’t priorities the issues that matter to them.

Via Alexander Burns of POLITICO, Pennsylvania energy executive Christine Toretti, who served as the finance co-chair of the Republican National Committee in 2012, told POLITICO she will head up a super PAC dubbed Women Lead. The organization aims to drum up contributions from other deep-pocketed Republican women, and use them to promote women running across the country in 2014 and beyond.

Scott Sturgill kicked off his campaign on Tuesday at the Heathrow Country Club.

Mike Haridopolos is breaking out the checkbook, wrote Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times. Haridopolos gave $35,000 to Scott’s Let’s Get to Work fund; $5,000 to Rubio’s Reclaim America PAC; and $2,500 to Christie’s re-election effort. He also gave money to Rep. Ted Yoho. One of his biggest donations, in May, was $25,000 to American Action Network, a Republican group that is trying to sell immigration reform to conservatives. Haridopolos, now a Tallahassee lobbyist, still has $1.3 million in the Friends of Mike H account, records show.

“Rubio is going to shake the Washington money tree when he returns in September.The Florida Republican, long a favorite on K Street for his presidential prospects, is expected to raise six figures, according to those familiar with the Sept. 18 event at Hill Country BBQ that has more than two dozen downtowners on its fundraising committee,” wrote Anna Palmer of POLITICO.

On the other side of political money talk, Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel wrote that lobbying fee reports are just another type of competition, causing lobbyists to “quietly cry foul on Florida’s nearly eight-year-old but never fully implemented lobbying law.”

While in Paul Bradshaw’s political life, the poultry talk is mostly about budgetary turkeys, the founder of Southern Strategy Group earned some ink this week for his other company, Greenfire Farms, where rare breeds of chickens can sell for as much as $2,500.

Other fundraisers were scheduled this week:  Southern Strategy multi-candidate fundraiser – Sept. 9 – Splitsville Luxury Lanes at Downtown Disney; Chris Latvala – Sept. 10 – Oxford Exchange in Tampa; Chris Sprowls – Sept. 12 – Riverside Grill House Veranda;  Dana Young – Sept. 17 – Tampa Yacht and Country Club; Jason Brodeur and Ritch Workman – Sept. 23 – Governors Club Board Room; . Manny Diaz, Jr., Dane Eagle, David Hood, Mike La Rosa, and Ray Rodrigues – Sept. 23 – Governors Club Library Room.


Via The Hill, more than 30 former administration officials, lawmakers and congressional staffers who worked on President Obama’s health care law have set up shop on K Street since 2010.  The voracious need for lobbying help in dealing with ObamaCare has created a price premium for lobbyists who had first-hand experience in crafting or debating the law… Demand for ObamaCare insiders is even higher now that major pieces of the law – including the healthcare exchanges and individual insurance mandate – are being set up through a slew of complicated federal regulations.

Also via The Hill, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, President Obama said in a radio interview that King would support the Affordable Care Act.

To Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post, regarding their crusade to defund ObamaCare, Rubio, Cruz and Paul “each stand to gain politically from the crusade that is doomed to failure in part because, well, it is doomed to failure…. Still, it’s getting the job done for the principals involved. Politically, at least.”

Via Clara Ritger of National Journal, Republicans have long blamed President Obama’s signature health care initiative for increasing insurance costs, dubbing it the “Unaffordable Care Act.” Turns out, they might be right… For the vast majority of Americans, premium prices will be higher in the individual exchange than what they’re currently paying for employer-sponsored benefits, according to a NJ analysis of news coverage and cost data.


Matthew O’Brien of The Atlantic presented data on the demographics of the “long term unemployed”, a designation that applies to over 4 million Americans.  He reports that these individuals tend to be older and were more likely to have been laid off from their last job than other unemployed workers. They also tend to be more educated than the newly unemployed.

Florida lawmakers have a lot to congratulate each other about as the state rises in national rank on numerous economic, employment, and health care factors.   But access to oral health care is not one of those things. To the contrary, Florida has continued its barely abated tank in all measures of oral health: fewer low-income kids in Florida see a dentist than in any other state. Florida has the 8th worst dentist shortage in the nation, and more than one-third of dentists in Florida are above the age of 55. This matters….. More on why, and what can be done about it, here.

A study released this week by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy found that right-to-work laws have an overall positive impact on the economy of states that adopt them.

I wrote a piece for Context Florida arguing that the mandated labeling of genetically modified food, as proposed by Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda in HB 1, is well-intentioned but misguided when it comes to protecting Floridians and global food needs.

Florida was given a D- grade by the Cato Institute for the availability of state Department of Education data on per-pupil school expenditures, overall expenditures, and salaries.  

Florida TaxWatch determined that Florida’s fishing industry contributes $5 billion to the state economy each year.  In 2013, more than 1.2 million non-residents fished during a visit to Florida.


Facing Florida with Mike Vasalinda: As many as 20 kids may be dead after contact with DCF. Kurt Kelly, who represents the providers, and Mike Watkins disucss what’s working and what’s not at DCF.

Political Connections on Orlando’s 13 News: Phil Brown and Frank Kruppenbacher from GOAA (Greater Orlando Aviation Authority)

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn

The Usual Suspects on Tallahassee’s WCTV: Mary Ellen Klas of The Miami Herald

Rep. Janet Adkins will host a meeting on sex offender laws on Sept. 4 from 2:00 – 4:30 p.m. at the Jacksonville City Hall.

Vice President Joe Biden will visit Florida on Sept. 5 to talk about college affordability.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist will headline the Marion County Democratic Party’s 5th annual “Proud to be a Democrat” fundraising dinner on Sept. 8 at the Hilton in Ocala.

The weekend of Sept. 5-7, Rock By the Sea Charity event to return to St. George Island with Battle of the Bands and the 4th Annual Golf Tournament. More info here.

Speaker Will Weatherford will be grilled in the Suncoast Tiger’s Den on Sept. 10.


At the Department of Environmental Protection, Lennie Zeiler was named new chief of staff and Drew Bartlett was named deputy secretary for water policy and ecosystem restoration.  Zeiler replaces Jennifer Fitzwater, who left to the FWC, and Bartlett replaces Greg Munson.

Via Mary Ellen Klas of The Miami Herald, two sitting members of the Florida Public Service Commission and a former lawmaker who had a short tenure on the commission are among six finalists who will be considered by Gov. Rick Scott for two upcoming openings on the utility regulatory board. Commissioners Ronald Brise and Art Graham, whose terms expire in January, are seeking re-appointment to the seats. Littlefield, who spent nearly eight years in the state House, was appointed to the PSC by former Gov. Jeb Bush in September 2006 but was replaced by Crist in January 2007 shortly after being sworn in. Crist contended Littlefield was not consumer-friendly enough.

Michael G. Mikurak was appointed to the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County; Dr. Mark Mikhael, and Dr. Michele Weizer (reappointed) to the Board of Pharmacy; Barabar Petersen, president of Florida’s First Amendment Foundation, named to a legislative panel examining public access to state records and contracts; Steven Bassett, E. Jay Carlson, David Compton, Thomas Franz, Robert Hamberger, Brian Langille, Darrell Phillips, Frederick Shilling, Jr. and Hamid Bahadori appointed to the Florida Building Commission; Megan Dempsey appointed to the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County; Timothy Koenig and Anne O’Bannon (reappointed) to the Florida Keys Community College District Board of Trustees.; Randall Reid (reappointed) to the Hillsborough Community College District Board of Trustees; Joy Korman appointed to the University of North Florida Board of Trustees; Kevin Holzendorf appointed to the Jacksonville Transportation Authority board; Kathryn Whitson, Dr. JoAnn Trybulski, and Elmira Gainey appointed to the Board of Nursing; Steve Uhlfelder reappointed to the Children and Youth Cabinet.

Carole Hays  joined Rep. Janet Adkins’ office as a district secretary; Priscilla Bezerra has taken a district secretary role in Rep. Matt Caldwell’s office; and Tyorne Hall joined Rep. Cynthia Stafford’s staff, replacing Erma Perry.

Beth Matuga joined the Florida Democratic Party’s Senate Victory effort as finance director.

Brad Piepenbrink, Gov. Scott’s personal aide, is heading to the Department of Education.  He is replaced by Wes Maul, a recent UF law school graduate.

Via Fox Business, Pres. Obama’s director of the National Economic Council, Gene Sperling, is telling people he may soon leave the post.

Pensacola News Journal publisher Kevin Doyle and executive editor Richard Schneider announced their retirements at a staff meeting.


Taylor Hatch, Guy Spearman: Department of Economic Opportunity; Stephen Hill: Seminole Behavioral Healthcare; Danny Jordan, Don Yaegar, One Eighty Consulting: Experian Information Solutions; Christopher Lipson: Home Care Association of Florida; Jo Morris: Office of Financial Regulation; Lindsey Perkins: Ernst & Young LLP: LeadsOnline; Richard Reeves, Capitol Insight: Media 8, SAS Institute, Inc.; Damon Smith: GEO Group; Nancy Black Stewart: Fresenius Medical Care North America; Jon Costello, Stephen Ecenia, The Rubin Group: Town of Jupiter Island; Ernest Cox: Sunniland Family Limited Partnership; Don DeLoach, Danny Jordan, One Eighty Consulting: PC Solutions & Integration, Inc.; Angela Dempsey, Dutko Poole McKinley: Erickson Living; Marty Fiorentino, Joe Mobley, Mark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: Sovereign Technology Group, Inc.; Kenneth Granger, Capital City Consulting, LLC: Koch, Parafinczuk & Wolf, PA; Stephen Dyal, Mercer Fearington, Clark Smith, Fearington & Smith: No Casinos, Inc., Spectra Energy Transmission, LLC; Shawn Foster, Southern Strategy Group: Al Estes Bail Bonds; Cameron Yarborough, Tsamoutales Strategies: Quest Diagnostics Incorporated; Brian Ballard, Brad Burleson, Ballard Partners: Vitaver & Associates; David Griffin: Cell Antenna Corp.; Allison Carvajal, David Ramba, Ramba Consulting: Spring Lake Improvement District; Ana Cruz, Floridian Partners: Orlando Science Schools; Charlie Dudley, Scott Ross, Floridian Partners: Burger King Corporation; and Bill Rubin, The Rubin Group: National Mortgage Insurance.


@SteveSchale: Really enjoyed #bipartisanlunch with @repdanayoung  – I can see why she was re-elected without opposition! #sayfie #GoodPeople

Brought to you by Karen Cyphers, PhD. Karen is president of The Cyphers Group, LLC. She directs data analysis, political consulting, and public policy research.