Politics

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.8.22

Good Monday morning.

A top-of-Sunburn birthday shoutout to one of my favorite people to swap book recommendations over dirty martinis (although I believe he prefers a cold beer while watching his Cubs play): Slater Bayliss of The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners.

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Welcome to the worldSahara Grace Blair, daughter of top GOP operatives Samantha and James Blair. She was born Friday afternoon, weighing 7 lbs. — 5 oz.

Happy birthday, Sahara Grace Blair!

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Welcome to the world, Part 2Esther Grace “Gracie” Plakon, the daughter of Rachel and Scott Plakon. She was born Friday morning. She came in at 7 lbs. — 3 oz. Baby and mom are doing great.

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President Joe Biden’s approval rating is in the tank, inflation is at a 40-year high, and gas prices, though coming down, are through the roof. For months, the narrative has been that Democrats will take a beating in November. That’s still probable. In fact, it’s likely.

But the momentum is starting to shift. In the past week, voters in Kansas — a GOP stronghold for 60 years — killed an abortion ban proposal, and in Arizona voters rejected candidates who embrace the false claims that Donald Trump won the 2020 Presidential Election.

As many predicted, the average voter isn’t celebrating the GOP’s massive win on abortion, and they also want tighter gun control. They know Democrats are more likely to deliver on both fronts.

Simply put, Republicans’ culture war wins may be their undoing.

Will the GOP culture wars be a boon for Democrats?

Meanwhile, Democrats — and “Dark Brandon” — scored some of their biggest victories since they seized control of all three levers of Government. Unemployment is at a half-century, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is on board with the Democrats’ climate change package, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is dead, and the so-called “chips plus” bill cleared Congress.

Now, Democratic U.S. Senate candidates have the edge in most competitive races. To be fair, the 2022 Senate slate was always favorable for Democrats, but it’s more so now than it was last week.

Republicans aren’t winless, however. New congressional maps have virtually guaranteed they will control the U.S. House next year and they’ve continued making inroads with Hispanic voters, a bloc that had been solidly blue — nationally, at least — for decades.

All that to say, the Midterm Elections may not be as dull as everyone thought a few weeks ago.

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Polling from progressive groups suggests races for Governor and Senate could be closer than expected.

Numbers from Progress Florida and Florida Watch show Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic challenger Val Demings tied, each with 45% support from those polled. Demings holds even with Rubio in the polling despite remaining an unknown quantity to more than a third of Florida voters. Gauging the favorability of both candidates, pollsters from The Hub found 36% of voters have a favorable view of the Orlando Congresswoman, 30% hold an unfavorable view and 34% said they could not rate her.

Meanwhile, voters know Rubio, but dislike him more than like him. Pollsters found that 52% of voters hold an unfavorable view of the two-term Senator, while just 43% hold a favorable view. That leaves just 5% neutral on the Senator as he sits nine percentage points underwater.

The race is tightening.

The Hub Pollsters Geoff Puryear and Annika Ramnath say that’s with a Republican electorate.

Additionally, the poll shows that 48% of registered voters intend to vote for Gov. Ron DeSantis for re-election, but about 43% of voters intend to vote for the Democratic challenger, whether that is U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist or Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

DeSantis holds near-universal name recognition, but voters have strong feelings as a result. About 50% of viewers hold a favorable view, with 39% saying they view him “very favorably.” But 48% have an unfavorable view, and 40% see him “very unfavorably.”

Undoubtedly, Republican turnout will be high, pollsters predict, but it issues like the reversal of Roe v. Wade may mean there’s not going to be a huge red wave. “We are seeing across the country Democratic candidates are overperforming the president’s ratings and that is very much the case in Florida, still the nation’s largest swing state,” he said.

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Volunteer Florida has hired veteran governmental affairs pro Brittany Dover as its External Affairs Director.

Dover most recently worked at the Florida Department of State, where she served as Director of Legislative Affairs. She previously worked as the Deputy Legislative Affairs Director at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and in the governmental affairs office of the Florida Department of Corrections.

Brittany Dover
Congrats to Brittany Dover, for taking a new role at Volunteer Florida.

Her political work includes two years as a special events coordinator for the Republican Party of Florida as a Deputy Finance Director for Republican Matt Caldwell’s campaign for Agriculture Commissioner.

She has managed the Presidency 5 build-out, which saw a record attendance of more than 5,000 attendees; assisted in organizing CNN’s 2012 Republican Presidential Debate in Jacksonville, the Republican National Convention in Tampa, and various major donor events and fundraisers.

In the private sector, she has worked at the law and lobbying firm Hopping Green & Sams. She got her first taste of The Process working at the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association — her mother, Carol Dover, heads up the massive and influential trade association.

In 2015, Dover was included in Florida Politics’ Class of 2015 “30 Under 30 Rising Stars.” In that profile, she said if she hadn’t fallen into politics, she may well have been a journalist, saying she became “addicted to Fox News at a very young age.”

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@MiaFarrow: President Biden may not be a mesmerizing orator, but he sure is doing great things for ALL of us.

@IsaacDovere: Few things in politics are certain these days — other than that Democrats are going to run a lot of ads on Senate Republicans stripping the insulin price cap out of the reconciliation bill just now.

@NikkiFried: If there is anyone who knows what it’s like to be lied about, it’s @HillaryClinton. I never called for her to be arrested, of course, & saying I did is a sad sign of a losing campaign. HRC is a leader, a trailblazer, an icon, & a stellar example to women everywhere, including me.

@KEBrightbill: The one thing that’s been true about Charlie Crist’s statewide political career is that he has a very long track record of siding with consumers and against big corporations. The reason he got elected Governor to begin with was because he aggressively went after price gouging.

@ChristinaPushaw: DC is a sanctuary city, so you all should be thrilled about having thousands of new “undocumented” neighbors in your backyard But for some reason, it sounds like you only want illegal migrants to stay in red states.

@JoLampert: There is no ‘teacher shortage.’ There are thousands of qualified experiences teachers who are no longer teaching. There’s a shortage of respect and proper compensation for teachers allowing them to actually teach.

Tweet, tweet:

@KevinCate: Text me when the feels like temperature drops under 100, Florida.

@JoshCeb: Absolutely can’t believe that the best Indigenous representation in a film I’ve seen was the 2022 Predator movie. AND it was the best Predator movie ever.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 1; Early voting begins for Primaries — 5; FBHA’s annual conference, BHCon2022, begins — 9; FRLA’s Operations and Marketing Summit — 10; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 13; 2022 Florida Primary — 15; launch window opens for NASA to launch the Artemis I — 20; 2022 Florida Chamber Technology & Innovation Solution Summit — 23; ‘Andor’ premieres on Disney+ — 23; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 25; NFL Opening Night: LA Rams vs. Buffalo Bills — 31; 2022 Emmys — 35; JMI’s 2022 Tech & Innovation Summit begins — 38; final season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 38; vote-by-mail mailing deadline for General Election — 59; deadline to register for General Election — 63; 22-23 NHL season begins — 64; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 78; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 78; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 79; Early voting begins for General Election — 82; 2022 General Election — 92; ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ premieres — 95; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 95; FITCon 2022 begins — 101; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 101; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 105; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 105; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 106; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 114; ‘Willow’ premieres on Disney+ — 114; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 130; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 193; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 211; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 228; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies’ 23 conference begins — 253; 2023 Session Sine Die — 270; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 270; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 298; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 347; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 452; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 466; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 599; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 718; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 718; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 823; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 998.

— TOP STORIES —

From Disney to Andrew Warren, Ron DeSantis shows taste for power — and a fight” via Emily L. Mahoney and Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Four months before suspending State Attorney Warren, DeSantis gave a warning to the prosecutor, “We will not tolerate that type of behavior in the state of Florida.” But, Warren’s removal wasn’t just a warning that came to fruition, it’s also an escalation of DeSantis’ use of executive power. The Governor has continually expanded his reach in the state, with Warren being his most recent conquest. He went around GOP leadership by drawing new congressional maps. He dissolved Disney’s special district. In response to the latest event, DeSantis’ critics have amplified their complaints that he is becoming a strong-armed authoritarian. … “Because he has built this track record of doing the right thing and building popularity (among Republican voters) … I think he’s got that platform and the ability to go places other politicians haven’t and couldn’t and wouldn’t,” said Stephen Lawson, a Republican political strategist in Georgia who worked on DeSantis’ 2018 campaign. “He’s willing to do that and step out and I think that’s why he continues to be rewarded for it.”

One thing you can say about Ron DeSantis — he doesn’t shy away from a fight.

DeSantis’ latest rampage is wake-up call Florida needs” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

‘I was blindsided’: Warren speaks out, plans to explore legal options following suspension” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Hillsborough County State Attorney Warren spoke out following his suspension by DeSantis, calling it a “blatant abuse of power.” Warren told the media he was “blindsided” by the announcement. He said he was escorted out of his office by an armed Sheriff’s Deputy with no warning. DeSantis announced the suspension of the 13th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Thursday morning, replacing the prosecutor with Hillsborough County Judge Susan Lopez. The Governor claimed Warren refused to enforce the law — specifically, he cited Warren’s refusal to enforce bans on abortion and gender-affirming surgery. “Let’s be clear — this is not about what I’ve done. This is about what I’ve said,” Warren said. In the coming days, Warren said he plans to explore legal options.

Warren releases video vowing to fight DeSantis’ ‘abuse of power’” via BriShon Mitchell of WTSP — On Sunday, suspended Warren released a video vowing to fight DeSantis’ order for his suspension Thursday. In a statement released with the video, Warren called DeSantis’ actions an “illegal and dangerous abuse of power.” “I’m not going down without a fight. I’m a former federal prosecutor, the duly elected State Attorney, a native Floridian, and a proud American,” Warren said in the video. “I refuse to let this man trample on your freedoms to speak your mind, to make your own health care decisions, and to have your vote count.”

To watch Warren’s comments, click on the image below:

Will DeSantis’ removal of Warren stick?” via Sue Carlton and C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Gov. DeSantis suspended Warren for what he said, not what he has done as a prosecutor. DeSantis’ order says a Governor’s “executive responsibility” allows him to suspend any state officer who is neglecting their duty or is incompetent. But, experts focused on a specific aspect of the order: Though it said Warren was not doing his duty because he had signed letters saying he would not enforce abortion bans or gender-affirming care for minors, no such cases have come before him. Legal experts are split: Can someone be removed from office for something that has not actually happened?

Tweet, tweet:

‘Constitutional’ sheriff movement escapes scrutiny” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — Warren isn’t the only elected official in Florida who has promised not to enforce laws he thinks are unconstitutional. Some elected sheriffs have suggested they wouldn’t enforce gun control measures, tapping into an ideology that sheriffs are the final arbiter of what is constitutional. But that movement hasn’t sparked action from DeSantis, who ordered a statewide review of state attorneys and their policy positions. A DeSantis spokesperson didn’t respond on whether the Governor has concerns about the constitutional sheriff movement. State Rep. Dan Daley said the Governor’s position is hypocritical because other elected officials remain in office who have made similar promises on issues important to conservatives.

— 2022 —

The super-high-stakes 2022 race no one is talking about” via Gabriel DeBenedetti of New York magazine — A DeSantis loss, which many in the GOP consider impossible, would be a political earthquake. Crist’s case is helped by his status as a legendary retail pol, even in the eyes of his rivals. In our four hours together, he easily shook hundreds of hands, took dozens of photos, and interrupted our conversation every few minutes to greet people as though they were his best friend. Yet each time, he rarely went 30 seconds without bringing up DeSantis. I asked Crist to predict the final margin of the race. “Seven,” he said, totally serious. This seemed like one level of exuberance too far in the swingiest state. He said everyone was forgetting that Trump and DeSantis don’t get along too well, and he was hoping they would start fighting over primacy in the party before November, therefore splitting the GOP.

A wildly important race that’s flying under the national radar.

—“Charlie Crist, Nikki Fried bet on abortion rights, rising insurance costs in fight for Governor” via John Kennedy of USA Today Network

For DeSantis, Crist and Fried, ad campaigns show candidates’ vulnerabilities” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — Political advertising can be annoying, repetitive, and not very useful in deciding how we should vote, but it’s fun to read tactics into the messages the candidates present. We’ll see a whole lot of ads on TV, social media and in our mailboxes in the weeks before the Florida primaries. Once the nominees are picked, the barrage of boasting and mudslinging will intensify in the fall. It’s not a very good way to select important government officials and we should regard anything they say about themselves or their opponents with great skepticism. Clearly, Fried sees her task as beating Crist this month, while Crist is leapfrogging the Primary and beating up on DeSantis. That’s smart for both, but not very informative for the voters.

—”Fried posted $1.1 million in new fundraising in July” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

Political committee connected to GOP consultant behind mailers attacking Crist on abortion” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — Recent mailers attacking gubernatorial candidate Crist’s past stance on abortion have been traced back to Social Justice PAC, which is linked to prominent GOP consultant William Stafford Jones. Jones works closely with Data Targeting, a consulting firm that has overseen Republican Senate campaigns across Florida. The mailers criticize Crist’s former pro-life views when he served as a Republican Governor more than a decade ago. So why do the mailers attack Crist for previous anti-abortion rights views? Former GOP political campaign strategist and lobbyist Mac Stipanovich said DeSantis would rather face Fried than Crist in November, hoping the ads encourage Democrats to support Fried in the upcoming Primary.

Assignment editors — Crist will take part in Hillsborough NAACP’s televised forum, 6 p.m., Hillsborough NAACP livestream. Details here.

Assignment editors — Fried and local activists will rally for reproductive rights and abortion access in Tallahassee, Miami, and Orlando. “Roe the Vote” events include: 7:30 p.m., Old Capitol Building; 400 S Monroe St.; 7:30 p.m., Cantina La Veinte Waterfront; 495 Brickell Ave, Miami; 6:30 p.m., Lake Eola Park, 512 E Washington St., Orlando. More info at [email protected].

Democrats rescind Naomi Blemur endorsements after ‘anti-choice,’ ‘homophobic’ posts emerge” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Screenshots shared on Twitter showed a history of social media comments that some Democrats are calling “anti-choice” and “homophobic.” Prominent Democrats began retracting their endorsements or denouncing Blemur after her post history came to light. Blemur, a pastor, businessperson, and Miami-Dade Democratic Party Committeewoman, had solidified support from several South Florida Democrats in the three-way Primary for Agriculture Commissioner. However, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, State Sen. Annette Taddeo and State Sen. Shevrin Jones rescinded their endorsements after former Agriculture Commissioner candidate Adam Christensen began tweeting screenshots of public posts made to her personal Facebook account.

A case of buyer’s remorse?

Counter-counter-counter punch: New Marco Rubio ad continues policing attack” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Rubio’s campaign just released its second statewide TV commercial, which challenges opponent Demings, a retired Orlando Police Chief, commitment to law enforcement. The new 30-second ad, “Failed,” includes several Florida Sheriffs and other law enforcement officers chastising Demings, and tying her to President Biden and House Speaker Pelosi. The three-term Democratic Congresswoman from Orlando has fought back against Rubio’s attack ads, with her campaign spokesperson calling the ads “desperate lies.” Nonetheless, Rubio’s latest attack continues a theme that has dominated much of the campaign rhetoric from both sides through the summer, as Rubio has attempted to devalue Demings’ career in law enforcement, and Demings has gone on the defensive. Just last week, Demings released her second commercial defending her police record.

Happening Wednesday:

— 2022: CONG —

That’s a shame — “Judge disqualifies Rebekah Jones from running as Democrat in Aug. 23 Primary” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled Friday that Jones could not stand for election as a Democrat in the upcoming Primary Election. Cooper disqualified Jones after a virtual hearing Friday from a lawsuit brought by her Democratic CD 1 opponent Peggy Schiller. The lawsuit alleged Jones changed her party affiliation to “unaffiliated” on June 11, 2021, and then back to Democratic on Aug. 11, missing the registration requirement by about two months. CD 1 covers Northwest Florida and is a Republican stronghold. Rep. Matt Gaetz currently holds the seat but is facing a well-financed Primary challenge from Mark Lombardo, as well as former military pilot Greg Merk.

Rebekah Jones’ political career suffers a major setback.

Poll: Aaron Bean in dominating position ahead of CD 4 GOP Primary” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Florida Sen. Aaron Bean faces little challenge in winning the Republican Primary for an open congressional seat, according to a recent St. Pete Polls survey. More than 59% of GOP voters included in the poll favor Bean for the Republican nomination in CD 4. Just 16% prefer Erick Aguilar and about 6% chose Jon Chuba. Among the 16% of respondents who already cast their vote-by-mail ballots in the race, nearly 62% say they voted for Bean. Pollsters report a margin of error of 5.5 percentage points. The contest is one of the GOP’s most likely pickup opportunities for a House seat this fall. Bean launched his campaign in June, shortly after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a controversial map that eliminated a Black access district in North Florida and left CD 4 as a Republican-leaning seat serving the Jacksonville area.

Sierra Club, slew of other progressives pile endorsements on Maxwell Frost in CD 10” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Democratic congressional candidate Frost has pulled in endorsements from the Sierra Club, Voter Protection Project, Friends of the Earth Action, Progressive Turnout Project, United for Progress PAC and Florida Reading Project. Democratic U.S. Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts also announced his support for Frost. Frost is running for the open seat in Florida’s 10th Congressional District in northern Orange County, facing state Sen. Randolph Bracy and civil rights lawyer Natalie Jackson in the Democratic Primary.

Mark Levin calls Anthony Sabatini a ‘clown’ candidate, endorses Cory Mills” via Lydia Nusbaum of Florida’s Voice — Levin, who moderated the Republican Primary debate for Congressional District 7 in Florida, called Sabatini a “clown” candidate and endorsed Mills in an August 1st podcast. On the podcast, Levin talked about the military being “hollowed out” due to vaccine mandates, woke ideology, and lack of funding. Levin was discussing the federal government’s job to protect the United States from foreign threats when he brought up Sabatini. “One of these clown candidates, like I said, was running for the Republican nomination… in Congress seven in Florida. He’s one of these Rand Paul wannabes. A knockoff,” Levin said.

—“PAC pours $692K into TV to support Maxwell Frost in CD 10” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

State Attorney Brian Haas jabs Warren in Kelli Stargel endorsement” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — State Attorney Haas is endorsing state Sen. Stargel in her run for Florida’s 15th Congressional District. But his endorsement didn’t just tout Stargel’s devotion to conservatism, he took the chance to make a jab at former Hillsborough County State Attorney Warren, who was recently suspended from his post by DeSantis in a controversial decision. Haas serves the 10th Judicial Circuit, which includes Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties.

Powerful congressional chairmanship role at stake in GOP Primary race between Vern Buchanan, Martin Hyde” via Jesse Mendoza of Sarasota Herald-Tribune — U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan could soon find himself at the helm of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, but he must first defeat controversial Sarasota businessman Hyde in the upcoming Republican Primary. While the incumbent is considered the favorite in the race, the candidates will have to appeal to a redrawn district after Sarasota was removed from CD 16. Buchanan has represented the district since 2013 and has served in Congress since 2007. Hyde would have to overcome a significant gap in fundraising and a tarnished reputation from previous controversies — as well as the added incentive of Buchanan’s candidacy to chair the Ways and Means Committee.

Vern Buchanan has a nice leadership post waiting. He must get by Martin Hyde first.

— 2022: LEG. —

Does support from conservative groups help — or hurt — in Democratic Broward?” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In the hottest Broward election on the Aug. 23 ballot, a conservative group best known for opposing abortion rights lists Lauren Book as its “preferred” candidate in her contest with Barbara Sharief. Book’s campaign does not see the rating as helpful. Joanne Goodwin, former President of the North Broward Democratic Club, used the endorsements Moms for Liberty made in Broward School Board races as litmus test of whom not to vote for, emailing the endorsements to her political friends, and posting them on Facebook. “Voters beware,” Goodwin said, adding that she recommends voters “do their research, and not vote for these candidates.”

Lauren Book is conservatives’ ‘preferred’ candidate for re-election. What’s up with that?

Attack ad hits Lauren Book because she ‘hates’ Republicans, prompting colleagues to rally to Book’s side” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Attack ads have been whizzing back and forth in the state’s most hard-fought Democratic Senate Primary as Sharief attempts to challenge Book. Now, the latest radio attack ad against Book has rallied Book’s legislative colleagues to hit back at Sharief’s camp. The ad is aimed at angering Republican voters, using audio from Book describing DeSantis as “a tyrannical dictator.” “Lauren Book wants Republicans to vote for her even though she hates them,” the narrator says as the ad wraps up.

Open to all voters: Kamia Brown, Geraldine Thompson vie in Senate District 15 Primary” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel

—”Joe Gruters, Michael Johnson vying for District 22 seat in State Senate in upcoming Primary Elections” via Gabriela Szymanowska of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Kiyan Michael’s ‘Brandon’ ad spotlights personal story, DeSantis endorsement” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Friends of Kiyan Michael political committee released “Brandon” on Friday. The committee explains that the :30-second spot “highlights Gov. DeSantis’ endorsement and details the tragic death of Kiyan’s son, Brandon, who was killed in a car crash by a twice-deported illegal alien in 2007.” The campaign asserts that “the ‘Angel Mom’ is turning her grief into action, standing with DeSantis and Trump to “secure the border, keep Florida safe, and put America first.” The advertisement recalls the tragic death of Brandon Michael, closing with four words: “Angel Mom. America First.” DeSantis said she stood with him in the “fight against illegal immigration,” then backed up those words with a $50,000 donation two days later from his political committee.

Daisy Morales adds $50K for re-election bid — Rep. Morales has added $50,000 of her own money to her campaign coffers in addition to incoming donations. The campaign plans to use the money on media buys in the final two weeks before the Primary Election. “It’s important to put my money where my mouth is,” the Orlando Democrat said. “I promised District 44 voters to be their voice in Tallahassee, just as I have been the voice for District 48 constituents. I’ve represented much of District 44 already in my first term and protecting the voters’ interests is my top priority.” Morales faces Rita Harris in the Democratic Primary. No other candidates have filed for the seat so the winner on Aug. 23 will represent the district next term.

Democratic Tampa Bay House hopeful Wengay Newton receives Republican backing” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Newton is getting some substantial Republican help in the Democratic Primary. The heavily Black district in covering parts of southern St. Petersburg and eastern Tampa would be certain to elect a Democrat even if the only Republican running, Jeremy Brown, weren’t in jail on charges from the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. In this race, he’s endorsed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which reliably backs Republicans, and received contributions from charter school and voucher interests and political committees associated with former state Sen. Jack Latvala and his son, Rep. Chris Latvala, both Republicans.

Wengay Newton gets some Republicans on his side. Image via Facebook.

YouTube playlist leads to charges of racism in Tampa Bay-based House race” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — In the contentious Republican Primary for state House District 59, Berny Jacques is suing prominent political operatives over attack mailers that he says are racist, false and defamatory and based on a fake rap music playlist created on the Internet. Jacques’s lawsuit alleges that an unknown person created a YouTube playlist including profane and violent rap songs and labeled it as belonging to Jacques, who is Black.

Democrats line up against James Bush’s re-election bid — Democrats are not helping Rep. Bush secure another term in the House, and some are actively working against his re-election campaign in HD 109. As reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, the Miami Democrat has sided with Republicans over his own party on many key issues including the 15-week abortion ban. Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo is among Bush’s most vocal critics. “The Governor seems to have issues with Black folks,” said Pizzo, who backs Bush’s opponent Ashley Gantt. “But instead of him leveraging his relationship with the Governor to help, he is the Governor’s little bitch.” Gantt is the only other candidate in the race, meaning whoever wins the open Primary Election will win the seat.

Demi Busatta Cabrera adds $25K in July as Democratic opponent hits cycle-high spending” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Rep. Cabrera enjoyed support from the sugar industry, real estate agents, alcoholic beverage distributors, police and fellow Republicans, among others, to raise nearly $25,000 last month to defend her House District 114 seat. She also spent $6,500, or less than half what Democratic lawyer Adam Benna spent to supplant her. As of July 29, Cabrera had more than $315,000 between her campaign account and political committee, People Above Politics. That may be because she didn’t need to dig into her own coffers; the Republican Party of Florida contributed more than $27,000 worth of in-kind aid, which went to polling and campaign staff.

Happening tonight:

and

— 2022: D-BALLOT —

Duval — “Amid teacher vacancy crisis, Duval Schools presses the case for voters to approve tax increase” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — In Duval County, the district’s average teacher pay is the lowest among the state’s large urban school districts, looms large over a vacancy problem that has been brewing for years, was turbocharged by the COVID-19 pandemic and, thanks to new rules imposed by the state Legislature, is adding even heavier workloads for Duval’s veteran teachers. The vacancy crisis is why district officials say they are asking voters to approve a 1-mill property tax increase on the Aug. 23 ballot.

Hillsborough — Harry Cohen scores fleet of endorsements for Hillsborough Commission — Greater Tampa Realtors, Teamsters Local 79, SEIU Florida, the Tampa Police Benevolent Association and Equality Florida are endorsing Democrat Cohen for re-election to the Hillsborough County Commission. “Since he has been in office, Harry has been a reliable advocate for working people and workers’ rights,” Teamsters President Brian Rothman said. “Our fair city and Hillsborough County are better places because of his contributions to our community both on and off the dais, which is why we’re excited to endorse his re-election campaign.” Cohen is running for re-election in the newly drawn District 1, which includes South Tampa, Davis Islands, Harbour Island, Downtown Tampa, Channelside, North Hyde Park, Seminole Heights, Forest Hills, West Tampa, Town ‘N’ Country, Westchase and coastal sections of Gibsonton and Adamsville.

Harry Cohen keeps racking up Hillsborough endorsements.

Key WestMayoral hopefuls tackle city pressing issues” via T.K. Lund of Keys News — As voters prepare for one of the most consequential elections in the history of the Southernmost City, the Keys Citizen had the opportunity to speak with former City Commissioner and mayoral-incumbent Teri Johnston and her opponent, former City Commissioner Margaret Romero. Each was asked about the most pressing issues facing Key West residents.

Miami-Dade —Philippe Bien-Aime outraises, outspends Miami-Dade Commission field with more real estate cash” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — North Miami Mayor BienAime dominated July fundraising, further distancing himself from the five other candidates running for the District 2 seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission. Last month, he collected almost $100,000 in donations from real estate businesses. Altogether, he raised more than $126,000 and had about $405,000 left to spend as of July 22. Bien-Aime is running to succeed Commissioner Jean Monestime. High school principal Wallace Aristide was the second highest fundraiser, collecting more than $75,000 in July between his campaign account and political committee, which together held $148,573 by July 22.

Pasco — “Al Hernandez: Health care executive wants to restore school district where teachers are leaving” via Andrew Meacham of Florida Politics — Hernandez is running for Pasco County School Board. While he’s snagged an endorsement from Gov. DeSantis, Hernandez has focused his campaign on the “basics” — promoting school safety, increasing vocational training and financial training, making school bus routes more accessible, to name a few. To do so, Hernandez wants to address the pay disparity between Pasco employees and those in neighboring counties. He supports a property tax referendum on the Aug. 23 Primary ballot that would benefit teachers, bus drivers, and other support staff. But some DeSantis supporters, including members of Moms for Liberty, aren’t happy with the Governor’s support of Hernandez, concerned he doesn’t align with their culture war-centered priorities. Hernandez, though, has said he is confident the Governor shares his priorities for the district.

PanhandleOkaloosa School Board races have turned ugly” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News — School Board races in Okaloosa County have traditionally been button-down affairs, and as such have received little notice and garnered few headlines. But this year’s forums have gotten rowdy, with shouting matches between candidates and opponents’ family members rumored to have occurred at least one. The campaign angst has also spilled over into the School Board meeting room, and a television “set the record straight” moment has resulted in a law enforcement investigation. A unique feature of this School Board race is that the challengers are receiving substantial financial support from a single source: the YES For Okaloosa County Schools political action committee funded by Pat Ryan. “My opinion is Pat Ryan is a great American and can spend his money any way he wants to,” challenger Jerry Buckman said. “When I drive around and see another billboard, I say ‘great.’ “


— STATEWIDE —

DeSantis makes a second try in appointing Renatha Francis to Florida Supreme Court” via Lawrence Mower of the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau — For the second time, DeSantis has named Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Francis to the Florida Supreme Court. Francis was the Governor’s pick for the court back in 2020, but ultimately was unable to serve because she did not meet the qualification of 10 years with the Florida Bar. Francis, a member of the Federalist Society, is DeSantis’ fourth appointment, giving the court a majority of conservative justices picked by DeSantis. Francis is replacing Justice Alan Lawson, who resigned earlier this year.

It’s one more time for Renatha Francis.

Happening today — Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker will consider a preliminary injunction against DeSantis’ so-called “Stop WOKE Act,” 9 a.m., United States Courthouse, 111 North Adams St., Tallahassee.

Board of Medicine votes to consider new guidelines for gender-affirming care” via Ted Scouten of CBS News — Minutes before the Florida Board of Medicine voted on whether to consider setting guidelines for gender-affirming care for children emotions exploded in the hearing room. “You say you want to protect kids, you protect kids. Do not put them out on the street,” a woman yelled. Others chanted “Shame! Shame,” as they left the room. The board voted to begin the rule-making process which has trans people and advocates furious. “This board … appointed by the Governor approved to begin a rule-making process that essentially has a precursor of ending gender-affirming care for our children,” said Central Florida Democratic State Rep. Anna Eskamani.

How Florida twisted science to deny health care to trans kids” via Sam Greenspan of Vice News — Four years after Dr. Ken Pang published a study that found the benefits of gender-affirming care for transgender youth, he was shocked to find his research being misrepresented by the FDOH to justify denying such care to minors. The department cited Pang’s work in an April memo, which recommended against physical and social transition. Pang, along with nine other researchers, had no idea that Florida was misusing their work until VICE News reached out. All 12 citations Florida presents against the use of gender-affirming care are either distorted or from a source with clear anti-trans bias. “There is a lot more emerging literature. This is a fast-moving space,” Pang said. “And increasingly, the evidence shows that the provision of gender-affirming medical care is helpful.”

Monkeypox cases jump to 877, with new cases in Leon and Alachua, home of college campuses” via Diane Rado of Florida Phoenix — Florida’s monkeypox cases have jumped to 877 in 25 counties, with South Florida cases expanding and Alachua and Leon counties, home of big college campuses, adding to the caseload for the first time. The new caseloads also stood out, with Alachua and Leon counties posting one monkeypox case each. Those two new cases come at a time when thousands of students and staff will begin classes this month at the University of Florida, Florida State University, and Florida A&M University. Classes also will begin at the large community colleges in Alachua and Leon.

Data show almost 1,000 instances of Florida nursing home residents — some with dementia — exiting without supervision” via Zachary Carnell and Arlette Garcia of WUFT — Between 2017 and 2021, there were 993 instances of residents of Florida nursing homes exiting their facility without proper authorization or supervision. On average, that’s almost four “elopements,” as they’re referred to in the medical community, each week. Florida nursing homes care for roughly 71,000 residents at any given time, making elopements relatively rare. But they can be extremely dangerous for people living with dementia, said Ronald Petersen, the director of the Mayo Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

‘Nightmare scenario’: How FPL secretly manipulated a Florida state Senate election” via Mary Ellen Klas, Nicholas Nehamas, and Ana Claudia Chacin of the Miami Herald — Florida Power & Light had a problem. A strong Democratic challenger was threatening to unseat a friendly Republican incumbent in a Gainesville-area state Senate race in 2018. So, FPL used a shadowy nonprofit group to secretly bankroll a spoiler candidate, a longtime Democrat named Charles Goston. Running as a no-party candidate in the General Election, Goston helped split the liberal vote, siphoning off enough votes from the Democratic challenger to swing the race to the GOP incumbent.

Did Charles Goston run as a spoiler for FP&L?

Happening today — The Revenue Estimating Conference will examine forecasts for the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, Tobacco Settlement Trust Fund and State Schools Trust Fund, 1:30 p.m., Room 117 of the Knott Building.

— BACK TO SCHOOL —

Duval Schools reports 389 teacher vacancies. Here’s a list by school.” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — Records obtained by the Times-Union show 389 vacant classroom teacher positions with the new school year just around the corner. That’s slightly down from the 470 teacher vacancies the district reported last month. The number of classroom teacher vacancies varies by school. Fifty-three campuses, or about 31% of all Duval County Schools, reported no teacher vacancies as of July 28, 2022. These include Alimacani Elementary, Fletcher Middle and Holiday Hill Elementary.

In first back-to-school address, Jose Dotres praises student achievement, sets priorities” via Sommer Brugal of the Miami Herald — Standing on the stage at Miami Senior High School, Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Dotres declared the theme for the upcoming school year: Connect and inspire. “Isn’t that what we are all here to do? Isn’t that the goal of education?” he asked the crowd of district officials, School Board members and educators. “If we are to truly be successful, our students will be inspired to explore, to create, to invent … they will be inspired to achieve their full potential.” “At the core of our collective mission is to create connections and inspire greatness in every single child,” said Dotres, a graduate of Miami High.

Jose Dotres sets the tone for Miami-Dade schools.

Culture war fallout: Leon teachers to submit controversial books, lessons for ‘review’” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — This year, as a result of House Bill 1467, the Leon County school district is asking teachers to submit supplemental materials that aren’t in the state-approved textbook for review if the materials deal with a controversial subject. “If you know you’ve got a piece of literature or a book that teaches tough topics, it might be a good idea to go through this process ahead of time, that way if a complaint comes you don’t have to do it after the fact,” said Billy Epting, assistant superintendent for Leon County Schools. School boards are now required to hold a public meeting and include the parents of district students when reviewing learning materials.

Palm Beach County schools issue LGBTQ guidance amid fears of so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law” via Giuseppe Sabella of The Palm Beach Post — In the week leading up to a new school year in Palm Beach County, district leaders have assured students, teachers and families that support for LGBTQ+ people will remain after the start of classes Wednesday, when campuses reopen under Florida’s new law governing classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation. But for 17-year-old Alessio, a transgender student going into his senior year at a local high school, the anxiety remains. “I don’t want to be forced back into the closet,” Alessio said.

Pasco parents raise safety concerns over school bus cancellations” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — For this year the district ended rides for children living within 2 miles of their middle and high schools. The district’s move, which affects about 3,000 students, came in response to a driver shortage that left many buses arriving late to school daily. The state does not fund or require transportation for secondary students who can walk 2 miles or less to school. Pasco has struggled to fill nearly three dozen driver vacancies. Several districts across the state are in the same situation. Officials first sent out information about the changes in the spring, generating a round of complaints at that time.

Sarasota-Manatee teachers prepare for upcoming school year amid labor shortage, political noise” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Though schools do not have COVID-19 restrictions, the virus is still an issue, with yet another variant causing continued infections. In addition, many districts across the country face a shortage of teachers, and Florida is coursing with heated debate over education and cultural issues. Despite the outside noise, Laura McInnis, a teacher at Ballard Elementary in Bradenton, said, “when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, I don’t feel a difference because the students are my 100% priority.”

A school district added a parental ‘advisory notice’ to over 100 books” via Jo Yurcaba of NBC News — A southwest Florida school district added warning labels to more than 100 books, many of which touch on issues related to race or the LGBTQ community. Collier County Public Schools, a district that includes part of Naples, added the labels both on physical copies of the books and in Destiny, the district’s online catalog. The top of the label says “Advisory notice to parents” in capital letters. “This Advisory Notice shall serve to inform you that this book has been identified by some community members as unsuitable for students,” the label states.

Giving parents a heads-up on controversial books.

As school starts in Tampa Bay, just remember the kids are in hell” via Stephanie Hayes of the Tampa Bay Times — While we ready for our totalitarian future, let us board the mental wayback machine and remember that the dilemmas of youth are typically timeless, precise and bizarre. We may never know our kids experienced these defining moments until the day their adult variants admit that, in eighth grade, they kept nail clippings in a Sprite can, or wrote all the Savage Garden lyrics in ballpoint pen on their thigh or hid a Hot Pocket under the bed to create a super-species of ants.

—”Stress, COVID-19, other school-year worries. Experts give parents tips.” via Marlene Cimons of The Washington Post

— D.C. MATTERS —

Sour views on economy keep Joe Biden approval on issues down” via Hannah Demissie of ABC News — More than two-thirds (69%) of Americans think the nation’s economy is getting worse, the highest that measure has reached since 2008, when it was 82%. Currently, only 12% think the economy is getting better and 18% think it is essentially staying the same. Americans’ views of Biden’s handling of the economic recovery remain overwhelmingly negative and are virtually unchanged from the same poll in early June, with only 37% of Americans approving of the job the President is doing and 62% disapproving. The President’s rating on inflation is even worse, with 29% of Americans saying they approve, while 69% disapprove. This number is also unchanged since June.

Senate Democrats pass $740 billion tax, climate and health care bill” via Alayna Treene of Axios — Senate Democrats on Sunday passed their sweeping, $740 billion tax, climate and health care reconciliation package after an all-night session, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. The 51-50 passage of the bill, just three months before the midterm elections, is a massive victory for Democrats who have spent 18 months working toward delivering on their longstanding dreams of helping address climate change, lower the cost of prescription drugs, and hike taxes on large corporations.

Chuck Schumer proves that Democrats can still get things done.

How Medicare prescription drug coverage would change under U.S. Senate Democrats’ bill” via Jane Norman of Florida Phoenix — A major spending bill from U.S. Senate Democrats would allow Medicare for the first time in its history to begin negotiating the prices of certain high-priced prescription drugs, a proposal that’s been around for years but has never come so close to the finish line. Under the legislation, Medicare would start negotiating the prices of some drugs in Part D, the program’s prescription drug plan, beginning four years from now. The Medicare prescription drug reforms are included in a piece of budget legislation known as reconciliation, whose main attractive feature for Democrats is that the final product can’t be filibustered by Republicans under U.S. Senate rules.

‘Shouting distance’: That’s how close the Inflation Reduction Act would get U.S. to its climate goals” via Elizabeth Weise of USA Today — As climate change becomes more and more tangible with each heat wave, flood and hurricane, congressional Democrats have announced a bill designed to help the country meet its goals of curbing greenhouse gas emissions — enough to help the planet avoid the worst projections of global warming. To do so, the U.S. needs to curb its emissions by about half before the end of the decade. The $485 billion Inflation Reduction Act would reduce emissions by between 31% and 44% from 2005 levels, according to various estimates. It could also create at least 1.5 million new jobs in manufacturing, construction and service industries.

Tweet, tweet:

Fake Marco Rubio letter part of pro-China campaign, report says” via William Turton of Yahoo Finance — Multiple news websites and social media accounts that claim to be independent have links to a Chinese public relations firm. Some of them have allegedly published fabricated content, including a fake letter from Rubio. The websites, which present themselves as U.S. news outlets, were built using Chinese code. The fake letter was addressed to Adrian Zenz, a prominent critic of the Chinese government’s systematic imprisonment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. The letter falsely claimed that Zenz received financial support from Rubio and right-wing political operative Steve Bannon.

— JAN. 6 —

How do you actually stop the steal?” via Russell Berman of The Atlantic — Preventing the next attempt to overturn an election is a bit like playing whack-a-mole. Plug one gap in the nation’s rickety, interlocking system for counting votes and another pest seems to materialize immediately. Congress is confronting this reality as it tries to rewrite a 135-year-old law governing the final, fraught act of certifying the Electoral College results. To win Republican support for any changes to election law, Democrats had to jettison their much broader dreams of enacting stronger protections for voting rights and minimum federal standards for access to the polls.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

Donald Trump’s grip on GOP activist class on display at Texas conclave” via Natalie Allison of POLITICO — There’s a power struggle underway to be the face of the Republican Party in 2024, but you wouldn’t know it from attending CPAC Texas. It was all about Trump, who didn’t have to share the spotlight with a cast of potential Presidential Primary rivals, as he has at some other top conservative gatherings this year. Unlike CPAC’s Orlando event in February and the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Nashville conference in June, the weekend gathering was missing most of the non-Trump names floated as potential 2024 contenders.

Donald Trump keeps a headlock on the conservative wing of the GOP.

Some top Democratic donors are disenchanted with Biden. So far, Trump has kept them from fleeing.” via Jonathan Allen, Peter Nicholas and Carol E. Lee of NBC News — Biden’s donors are antsy, worried about his re-election chances, annoyed that they have little access to him and, in some cases, prepared to walk away from him in 2024. “Privately, I see a lot of donors being very nervous,” one veteran party fundraiser said. The restlessness among top donors and even longtime Biden supporters comes as a clear-cut majority of Democrats want someone else to be the party’s presidential nominee in two years. Many contributors and big-money bundlers would prefer a different nominee in 2024 but are sticking with Biden primarily because they believe he is the party’s strongest contender against Trump.

Trump would ‘probably not’ pass this civic literacy exam, academics say” via Kayla Gallagher of Business Insider — Could Trump, Florida’s most famous resident, pass a civics exam championed by DeSantis, a potential political rival, and administered to Sunshine State high school students? Insider asked four college professors whether they think Trump could pass the test. Most were doubtful and one suggested a similar version of the test should be given to people running for office to assist voters in picking the best candidates. Peter Bergerson, a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, was reluctant to pass judgment on Trump’s test-taking skills. “I’m just not in a position to know whether he would or not,” he said. “I mean my instinct and my gut feeling is probably not.”

— MORE LOCAL: S. FL —

Diaz de la Portilla political machine slimed Miami-Dade’s first Haitian American judge, complaints allege” via Francisco Alvarado of FloridaBulldog — Judicial races are supposed to be civilized electoral contests. Unless the candidate is a member of the Diaz de la Portilla political family gunning for Miami-Dade County’s first Haitian American judge, then sleazy campaigning is on brand. However, Renier Diaz de la Portilla’s dirty tactics could muddy up his bid for a judgeship. A pair of identical complaints filed with the Florida Bar and the Judicial Qualifications Commission aim to extinguish Diaz de la Portilla’s aspirations should he succeed in unseating Miami-Dade Judge Fred Seraphin. If the bar or the Commission finds probable cause against Diaz de la Portilla, then the Florida Supreme Court would decide his fate.

Outgunned: A firing range’s neighbors say it is a noisy nuisance. Florida law says tough” via Alyssa Johnson and Ana Claudia Chacin of the Miami Herald — Here on the edge of civilization, where minding one’s own business is expected, an unlikely neighborhood dispute has broken out. It pits a long-standing, legally permitted firing range, Henry’s Sport Shooting, enveloped by trees at the end of a winding, rutted dirt driveway, against the farmers and tree growers who came here to till the land, tend the trees and live in peace. Kevin Barber, a nearby resident, alleges that the business, whose presence preceded him in the neighborhood by a decade, has fostered a culture of “disrespect” toward the surrounding community.

Is Florida law cool with owning a flamethrower?” via Ana Claudia Chacin of the Miami Herald

Fun fact: It’s legal to own flamethrowers in every state in the union.

Was a Broward ballot drop box not supervised? Here’s what Florida’s election crimes office found.” via Wells Dusenbury of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A voting drop box in Broward County that was alleged to have been left unattended in violation of Florida’s new election law was in fact properly monitored, the state concluded after an investigation. The allegation was one of the first tests of Florida’s new Office of Election Crimes and Security, which was created in April and charged with investigating election crimes. The complaint, which was raised to DeSantis during a news conference on Thursday, centered around a photo on social media that claimed a drop box outside the Broward Supervisor of Election’s office in Fort Lauderdale was left unattended.

Lake Park Mayor Michael O’Rourke to resign at year’s end after steering town toward growth” via Lianna Norman of The Palm Beach Post — Mayor O’Rourke has helped lead Lake Park into a position of growth. Town revenues have had a 15% increase for the last two years and are projected to have a 25% increase in 2023. With seemingly nothing but a positive path forward, why would he resign? “I’ve been on Council for 10 years, and I’ve been the Mayor for five. I think it’s time for the town to put new people in place,” O’Rourke said. “And, honestly, I just need to be making some more money.” The town announced O’Rourke’s resignation, effective this December, in its newsletter on July 26.

Authorities continue Florida Keys crackdown on Pagan gang” via Keys News — Florida Keys and federal law enforcement agencies are continuing their crackdown on the notorious biker gang, the Pagans. Members of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Unit and the Key West Police Department assisted the FBI in the arrest of a Pagans motorcycle gang member, Justin August Meyer Sheriff’s Office spokesman Adam Linhardt said. The location was the same as a previous search performed by the Sheriffs’ Office in January, which resulted in Meyer being charged with possession of cocaine, possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of ammunition by a felon and possession of drug paraphernalia.

— MORE LOCAL: C. FL —

For some in St. Petersburg’s Black communities, Uhuru raid ‘doesn’t smell good’” via Jack Evans of the Tampa Bay Times — From his vantage on 18th Avenue S., Jabaar Edmond watched as federal agents raided the Uhuru House a week ago. That morning, someone had sent him a video of agents trying to breach the building. A spiderweb of cracks was left in the glass front door. The agents had a warrant, but to Edmond, it looked like an invasion. Some in St. Petersburg’s Black communities see a parallel between the legacy of law enforcement crackdowns on minority movements with the extraordinary raid on the Uhuru headquarters last week, local leaders said. The group’s leaders have seized on that theme.

Something is off about the Uhuru raid by the FBI.

Developers’ $400 million bluff plan officially heads to Clearwater voters” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — The Clearwater City Council gave final approval Thursday to development and purchase agreements that lay out terms of a multimillion-dollar development deal. On Nov. 8, residents will vote on whether the city should sell the two bluff properties to The DeNunzio Group and Gotham Property Acquisitions for $24.7 million to make the development possible. The development, which is expected to cost $400 million, has plans for apartment, retail and hotel spaces.

Disney unions negotiate new contract as workers share financial struggles” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Working and living in Central Florida means a series of bad choices with no good solutions, one Disney worker said. “I’m hoping we can get some relief,” said Kadejha Reid, who works at a quick service restaurant in Animal Kingdom and struggles affording rent, child care and groceries as a single mom. “We need to see some changes.” Reid and other hospitality workers shared their emotional stories of hardship recently during a roundtable discussion that comes at a pivotal time for Disney union workers who, like many Central Floridians, are grappling with the housing crisis and punishing inflation. This month, the largest Disney union coalition is going to start negotiating a new contract with the company.

Florida woman claims life-changing injury after hitting head at Universal Volcano Bay” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — St. Johns County resident Danielle Tolman suffered a head injury after going down a slide at Universal’s Volcano Bay water park in 2018. Now, she’s seeking $100,000 in a recently filed Orange Circuit Court lawsuit against Universal. Tolman hit her head on the Punga Racers — a waterslide with a history of problems — and said the injury left her unable to drive or take care of her home. In July 2019, New York tourist James Brown went down the same slide and broke his neck, becoming temporarily paralyzed. Bowen also sued Universal and settled for an undisclosed amount in 2020. Universal has since added a weight restriction and changed the slide.

— MORE LOCAL: SW. FL —

Carlos Beruff and Anthony Pedicini on state’s witness list in George Kruse DUI case” via Dawn Kitterman of the Bradenton Times — Republican political operative Pedicini and politically-connected local developer Beruff have both been named by the state as material witnesses in a case against Manatee County Commissioner Kruse. Kruse is faced with one count of DUI following a controversial crash in April, to which he pleaded not guilty. Both Pedicini and Beruff may have political ties to Kruse — Pedicini was a campaign consultant in Kruse’s 2020 run. The case will advance to a pretrial hearing scheduled for Aug. 16.

George Kruse’s DUI somehow entangled a few Republicans.

— MORE LOCAL: N. FLORIDA —

New $75 million JEA headquarters slated for completion in mid-October” via Teresa Stepzinski of The Florida Times-Union — Construction of JEA’s new headquarters in downtown Jacksonville is expected to be completed in mid-October, utility company officials said. The seven-story office tower and 640-space parking garage are a few blocks away from JEA’s longtime headquarters at 21 W. Church St. The main building and garage are nearly complete, while work continues on the interior, Simone Garvey-Ewan, JEA spokesperson, said. It’s the first major office tower built in the downtown core since the 1980s. Employees will move into the new building in phases, Garvey-Ewan said.

JEA finally gets new digs.

Local political blogs are battling to rule Leon County’s fierce election cycle” via Margie Menzel of WFSU — Online blogs are being used to support competing candidates in Leon County ahead of the Primary Election. There’s Tallahassee Reports, Grow Tallahassee, Our Tallahassee and 4TLH — all weighing in on the candidates. The local blogs represent a gray space in journalism, while some like Our Tallahassee say they provide more fact-based content like campaign funding, while others, like 4TLH, say they are not a news site, but instead provide points of view on political issues.

Ocala City Council asks U.S. Supreme Court to decide 2014 downtown prayer vigil lawsuit” via Austin L. Miller of the Ocala Star-Banner — The Ocala City Council unanimously agreed to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider a long-standing lawsuit concerning a 2014 downtown prayer vigil. West Ocala had a series of drive-by shootings in 2014. After the vigil, the American Humanist Association filed a federal lawsuit against the city on behalf of several plaintiffs. The suit alleges a violation of church and state. The plaintiffs noted, among other things, that uniformed police officers were at the rally, which government employees helped plan. Also, a notice was placed on the police department’s webpage.

Fake gun, real fear: Nurses sue AdventHealth Ocala, say active shooter drill gave them PTSD” via Jim Ross of the Ocala Star-Banner — Two nurses are suing AdventHealth Ocala, alleging that an unannounced active shooter drill last year left them terrorized and traumatized. Lauren Palazini and Dominique Tucker each seek more than $30,000 in damages. Through their attorney, Patrick M. Hale of Hale Law in Sarasota, the women accuse AdventHealth Ocala of assault, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. At issue is a staff training session held Nov. 30 at AdventHealth’s emergency room facility at TimberRidge, west of Ocala. According to the suits, the session was billed as mass casualty training.

— TOP OPINION —

The GOP is Viktor Orban’s party now” via Max Boot of The Washington Post — The libertarian-leaning Republican Party in the 1980s is long gone and not coming back. Republicans still use the language of “freedom,” but their idea of freedom is warped: They want Americans to be free to carry weapons of war or spread deadly diseases but not to terminate a pregnancy or discuss gender or sexuality in school.

Republicans, once suspicious of government power, are now eager to use it to impose their agenda. DeSantis, next to Trump as the most likely 2024 GOP nominee, is establishing his culture-war credentials by, most recently, suspending an elected prosecutor who vowed not to “criminalize personal medical decisions,” such as abortion or “gender-affirming health care.” DeSantis even threatened to investigate parents who take their kids to drag shows.

These Republican extremists are often described as the “New Right,” but the term doesn’t fit. The New Right was the movement in the 1960s-1970s that produced Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. You can argue that the New Right helped lead to the present imbroglio, but it’s hard to imagine Goldwater or Reagan flashing Orban a thumbs-up, as Trump did.

Some other term is needed. “Christian nationalism” and “nationalist conservatism” have been bandied about, but the most apt phrase for this American authoritarianism is the New Fascism, and it is fast becoming the dominant trend on the right. If the GOP gains power in Washington, all of America will be in danger of being Orbanized.

— OPINIONS —

Communist China is the biggest threat facing our country and Biden is asleep at the wheel” via Sen. Marco Rubio for Fox News — “Beijing Biden” is beginning to seem an appropriate nickname. No, I am not talking about Hunter, but the “Big Guy” himself. Biden struck a tough tone on China during his first address to Congress. Puffing out his chest, Biden bragged that he told China’s Marxist dictator the United States “will defend America’s interests across the board.” But 15 months later, it is increasingly clear the President’s policies are helping Beijing far more than Scranton, even as China threatens the U.S. Speaker of the House with military force.

Hey, Joe, don’t give it a go” via Maureen Dowd of The New York Times — Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a cautionary tale. Her death opened the door to the most conservative court in nearly a century. The timing of your exit can determine your place in the history books. This is something Biden should keep in mind as he is riding the crest of success. His inner circle, irritated by stories about concerns over his age and unpopularity, will say this winning streak gives Biden the impetus to run again. The opposite is true. It should give him the confidence to leave, secure in the knowledge that he has made his mark.

Less Biden is just fine with Democrats” via Michael Goodwin of The New York Post — Less Biden just fine with Dems. For American voters, the less they see of Biden, the more they like him. The Democrats’ nominee spent much of the 2020 presidential race in his Delaware basement and still was elected. A similar phenomenon seems to be unfolding now. As his polling cratered, Biden became a political liability and Dem candidates running in close elections suddenly had “scheduling conflicts” when the President arrived on their turf.

The mini-Trumps are as big a threat to democracy as Trump is” via Perry Bacon Jr. of The Washington Post —The biggest danger for American democracy is that Trump or a figure like him succeeds at something bold and extreme like Jan 6. But an almost equally important danger is that a bunch of mini-Trumps, some of whom you have never heard of, take several hundred actions, most of which you will never learn of, that gradually create either a national government or 25 to 30 state governments where elections are rigged by gerrymandering and voting restrictions, where news coverage and other forms of public accountability are nonexistent, and where people worry about retribution if they disagree with their political leaders. America stopped Trump on Jan. 6. But we are not yet stopping Trumpism.

Joe Manchin’s deal won’t save the Democrats in the midterms” via Karl Rove of The Wall Street Journal — Democrats are pumping this latest Build Back Better incarnation big time, hoping it’ll be the life raft they need. Hyperbole won’t save Democrats; voters will see that the promises don’t match reality. Like last year’s version of Build Back Better, the bill also has cost-hiding gimmicks. The bill is also likely to harm growth with its $470 billion in revenue increases via new taxation. As Republicans will surely note again and again, that’s the last thing Washington should be doing during a recession. The Chuck SchumerManchin deal won’t save the Democrats. But unhinged GOP candidates might.

The new politics of abortion” via Ross Douthat of The New York Times — Right now, majorities of Americans favor abortion restrictions that were ruled out under Roe, but only slightly over a third of the country takes the position that abortion should be largely illegal, a number that shrinks if you remove various exceptions. That means that millions of Americans who voted for Trump favor a right to a first-trimester abortion — some of them old-fashioned country-club Republicans, others secular working-class voters or anti-woke “Barstool conservatives” who dislike elite progressivism but find religious conservatism alienating as well. Even with exceptions, a state probably needs to be either very Republican or very religious for a first-trimester abortion ban to be popular, which basically means the Deep South and Mountain (and especially Mormon) West.

After Kansas’ vote on abortion, ‘dare we hope’? Yes, if …” via Leonard Pitts Jr. for the Tampa Bay Times — “Dare we hope?” That was the rather plaintive response of a man on Twitter when news broke that Kansas voters had rejected an attempt to remove the right to abortion from their state constitution. We are talking about a fire-engine-red state. It went for Trump in 2016 and repeated the error in 2020. Yet, that same Kansas just voted to preserve abortion rights. And at 60% to 39%, it wasn’t even close. “Dare we hope,” indeed. You can’t blame people for being hesitant. This has been a brutal season for progressive values. Voting rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, even contraceptive rights … somehow, it’s all once again up for grabs.

In Florida, this is the year to vote based on abortion” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — This is the year that abortion is on the ballot. If it’s an issue important to you, Maxwell writes, then you should vote on it — because the stakes are higher than ever. With Roe v. Wade overturned, the issue goes back to the states, and Florida is a land of extremism on the issue. If you think a 14-year-old raped by her uncle should be forced to complete that pregnancy because all life is sacred — you should vote Republican. But if you support any kind of nuance, you should vote otherwise, even if you normally vote red. Why? Because Florida’s GOP leadership has already vowed to expand abortion bans, and, unlike in Kansas, the issue itself won’t go to voters.

DeSantis’ tyrannical suspension of state attorney, over words” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — DeSantis’s abrupt sacking of Hillsborough County State Attorney Warren was the deed of a tyrant drunk with power, inflamed with presidential ambition and accustomed to ruthlessness as the first resort rather than the last in having his way. Crist understated the crisis when he accused DeSantis Thursday of being a “wannabe dictator.” DeSantis crossed the line from potential to actuality long ago. He controls the Legislature as totally as Fidel Castro ruled the Cuban Communist Party. It gives him whatever he wants, no matter how wrong it is.

The progressive prosecutor movement has limits. Public defenders can do more” via Yonina Alexander of the Los Angeles Times — Even the most progressive prosecutors have limited tools for change. They can make temporary gains, like eliminating cash bail and restricting pretrial detention in the short-term. But the expectations of prosecutors — whose jobs have long been understood as putting people in prison — make them vulnerable to law-and-order recall campaigns each election cycle. A more sustainable tool for criminal justice reform — maybe our most powerful yet — is to invest in public defenders. Their jobs align more closely with the goals of reform and have the potential to lead to safer communities, yet they remain chronically underfunded. Specifically, public defenders are court-appointed to represent some of the most vulnerable and poorest members of our society. The public defender’s office is thus an access point to government and community resources at the moment a person may need help most.

DeSantis: Proposed state license plate features warning to ‘out-of-state cars’” via Frank Cerabino of The Palm Beach Post — “The free state of Florida has a new license plate for pre-order that benefits the Florida Veterans Foundation and sends a clear message to out-of-state cars, ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ or Florida,” DeSantis tweeted. I didn’t know that “out-of-state” cars required a clear message — other than to be apprised that about 20% of Florida drivers don’t have auto insurance and the state is second in the nation when it comes to motorists killing pedestrians. The no-treading-allowed message seems odd. Isn’t that what tourists do? Eventually, they park their cars and then they literally tread on Florida until it’s time to go, leaving a trail of dollars in their wake.

Generating shade at NextEra Energy” via The Palm Beach Post editorial board — Reports that our hometown power company, NextEra Energy and its FPL subsidiary, used a consultant to overturn elections, dig up dirt on city officials, spy on a reporter and suggest other malevolent ways to propagandize for-profit and wipe the slate clean of those who might question it, are discouraging and despicable. Call us naive, but even to contemplate hiring consultants who specialize in such behavior is beyond atrocious and calls for immediate shareholder action. One has to fear what else FPL might be conjuring that we don’t know about.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

Disney World has a new dinner and a show offering” via Sarah Jean Callahan of the Miami Herald — Cirque du Soleil is now presenting Drawn to Life at Disney in Disney Springs, the first collaboration between the two. Disney Springs has 13 different dining choices that pair well as a before or after-dinner entrée. Patrons must purchase tickets for the Cirque Du Soleil show separately from their Disney admission. It is recommended that dinner reservations are made for 2.5 hours before the start of the Drawn to Life performance start time, which will allow for any hiccups in timing and allow guests to make it to the show on time.

Disney World gets a brand-new show.

Dreamfield launches fan, athletic collective at USF” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Athletes at the University of South Florida will now be able to receive compensation via the launch of the Fowler Ave Collective, the university’s first and only name, image and likeness collective. Dreamfield Sports, an Orlando-based tech startup that works to help collegiate athletes to profit from their NIL, announced the launch of the Fowler Ave Collective Friday. The collective describes itself as a “private fan club” to support players by crowdsourcing fan contributions. For monthly membership fees between $10 and $200, the collective offers fan engagements with current players, who are then paid by the collective.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are former Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, Bill Coletti, Yolanda Cash Jackson of Becker, Jay Malpass of Motorola, and Jenn Whitcomb. Belated happy birthday wishes to Taryn Fenske, Communications Director in DeSantis’ office.

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Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.


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