Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.25.21

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.25.21

Sunburn Orange Tally (3)
Your morning review of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

Good Monday morning

An above-the-fold birthday shoutout to Mr. Tampa, Mike Griffin, whose day job is the market leader of Savills’ Tampa office.

Mike is an INFLUENCE 100 alum after being appointed by then-Gov. Rick Scott to the Port Tampa Bay Board in 2017 following reports of “wasteful spending” by port executives. Also, in 2017, he was the youngest chair of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce in its 130-year history.

Happy birthday to Mike Griffin, pictured here with his wife Melanie and their son, Maverick.

Mike is currently the vice-chair of the board of trustees at the University of South Florida, where he is also the head of the school’s presidential search committee.

Best wishes, Mike.

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The next edition of INFLUENCE Magazine will be published in early January, focusing on the 2022 Legislative Session.

The deadline to reserve space in this important edition is Nov. 12. If you are interested in advertising, please email me at [email protected].

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Random question — Do you own artwork from the artist Ashley Longshore? If you do or have some sort of connection to her work and are willing to speak to one of our reporters about it for an upcoming feature, please email me.

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Veteran legislative staffer Matt Herndon is joining RSA Consulting as a local government and community affairs expert.

Herndon brings nearly a decade of experience in state government to the Tampa-based firm, most recently as a legislative aide to St. Petersburg Democratic Rep. Ben Diamond since 2016 in House District 68. Before that, he spent four years working for Diamond’s predecessor, Democratic Rep. Dwight Dudley.

Congrats to Matt Herndon, taking his considerable expertise to RSA Consulting.

“RSA prides itself on the culture we have built and the quality people we have as part of our team. We are very pleased that Matt would consider taking the leap to RSA and are equally grateful that Leader Diamond was willing to fully endorse Matt joining us,” said RSA Vice President and COO Natalie King. “Matt is a highly competent professional with just the right demeanor and ethics to help round out the already awesome team at RSA.”

Herndon’s new role will cover policy initiatives and local affairs for many regional organizations, including United Way Suncoast, the Tampa Bay Partnership, Pepin Distributing Company, Tampa Theatre, and the Straz Center for Performing Arts.

“I have had the pleasure of working with the RSA team on many occasions and have always been deeply impressed by their expertise, integrity, dedication to achieving results for their clients, and passion for bringing positive change to the Tampa Bay area,” Herndon said.

Herndon will be based out of the RSA Tampa office, alongside President and CEO Ron Pierce, King, lobbyists Edward Briggs, Kaitlyn Owen, Melody Arnold and Communications Coordinator Krista Landers.

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Thank you to Selene San Felice of Axios Tampa Bay for featuring our home’s Halloween lights display in their Friday newsletter. Check out the profile here.

It’s that time of year! Image via Allison Davis/Axios.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@Jack: Hyperinflation is going to change everything. It’s happening.

@RedSteeze: The most ironic thing is 760,000 Americans are dead, likely because of (Anthony) Fauci‘s well-funded science experiments, but he’s going to end up retiring because the public got outraged over a few Beagles.

@LauraLitvan: Sen Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, said he won’t support ending the Senate filibuster that has enabled the Republican minority to block key portions of President Joe Biden’s agenda.

@Fineout: Among the candidates who received money from a company created by (Lev) Parnas was @GovRonDeSantis, whose campaign later disgorged the money. Parnas was at multiple campaign events in closing days of 18 campaign

@CharlieCrist: Surgeon General (Joseph) Ladapo should resign.

@MarcACaputo: To those asking why POLITICO didn’t report a Public Integrity prosecutor was just added to the (Matt) Gaetz case, it’s because he wasn’t. We reported months ago Public Integrity was on the case (it’s their job). Prosecutor Todd Gee has been involved since at least Dec. 28, per subpoena

@AnnaforFlorida: Incredible turnout at this year’s #EldAlz Orlando Walk!! Let’s support @alzassociation & @alzcnfl and those who live with Alzheimer’s and other dementia in finding a cure! 💜

@MittRomney: Darn it all to heck —@JasonSudeikis is hosting @nbcSNL tonight. Break a leg, Jason! Ann and I will be watching while splitting a nice, cold carton of chocolate milk.

@RepGregSteube: Congrats to the @Braves for capturing the NL pennant! Florida’s 17th Congressional District is proud to host the Braves’ spring training facility and will be pulling for them in the World Series!

@StevenTDennis: I remember Ye Olde days when I would camp out all night at Best Buy. One year I snagged a $499 laptop when none were for sale below — $999. Kind of had me hooked. Distant memories now. Maybe 20 years ago?

— DAYS UNTIL —

World Series Game 1 — 1; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 2; Florida TaxWatch’s annual meeting begins — 2; Georgia at UF — 5; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 8; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 8; The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 11; Disney’s ’Eternals’ premieres — 11; ’Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 13; ’Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 14; U.S. to lift restrictions for fully vaccinated international travelers — 14; Miami at FSU — 17; ‘Hawkeye’ premieres — 20; ExcelinEd National Summit on Education begins — 24; FSU vs. UF — 33; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 37; Jacksonville special election to fill seat vacated by Tommy Hazouri’s death — 43; Steven Spielberg’s ’West Side Story’ premieres — 46; ’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 53; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 58; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 65; CES 2022 begins — 72; NFL season ends — 76; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 78; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 78; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 79; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 81; NFL playoffs begin — 82; Super Bowl LVI — 111; Daytona 500 — 118; St. Pete Grand Prix — 125; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 130; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 193; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 214; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 220; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 256; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 268; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 347; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 375; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 382; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 417; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 480; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 634.

— TOP STORY —

Senate President blasts Florida Surgeon General for his ‘unprofessional’ actions” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — President Wilton Simpson sharply criticized Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo for failing to adhere to a request from Sen. Tina Polsky to wear a mask while visiting her office. Polsky was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and is about to start radiation treatment and asked Ladapo to leave her office after Ladapo refused to don a mask. Simpson sent a memo to all members and Senate staff calling the incident “disappointing” and said that “it shouldn’t take a cancer diagnosis for people to respect each other’s level of comfort with social interactions during a pandemic.” “What occurred in Sen. Polsky’s office was unprofessional and will not be tolerated in the Senate,” Simpson wrote.

Joseph Ladapo rubs Senators the wrong way. Image via Colin Hackley.

—”Florida pols call for Senate to deny Surgeon General confirmation after troubling meeting” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics

Weaponized Surgeon General? Joseph Ladapo comes out swinging on social media, at Ron DeSantis’ side” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — He’s been using his newly minted Twitter account — @FLSurgeonGen — to promote the public health policies of his boss, DeSantis. But he’s also used it to go after Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a frequent critic of the Governor and potential opponent of his in the 2022 governor’s race. His public presence also stands in direct contrast to that of his predecessor, Dr. Scott Rivkees. Ladapo blasted the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines. He pushed for natural immunity, accused the overwhelming majority of the public health community of scientific dishonesty, and criticized the Biden administration’s policies and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Comments like those and his unprecedented Twitter attacks on Fried, the Governor’s potential opponent in 2022, have effectively weaponized the surgeon general, said Ron Filipkowski, a Sarasota lawyer and former longtime Republican. “This is right out of the (Donald) Trump playbook,” said Filipkowski.

— STATEWIDE —

Two of a kind? Video shows DeSantis, Donald Trump using similar hand gestures” via Ron Skoneki of the Orlando Sentinel — The Recount, a website focused on politics, is taking aim at DeSantis for an unusual reason: His hand gestures closely match with those of Trump. A 19-second, side-by-side video titled “Is Ron DeSantis copying Trump?” posted on Twitter shows the GOP governor and the ex-commander in chief using nearly identical finger and open-hand gestures as they speak. At one point, the two synced up to say “made in China” in unison. DeSantis has been a staunch supporter of Trump and his policies and shares the ex-President’s affinity for appearing on Fox News. DeSantis won the Republican primary over Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam in 2018 after Trump endorsed him in a tweet, and DeSantis is widely presumed to be running for President in 2024 unless Trump runs again.

Tweet, tweet:

DeSantis rallies supporters and riles foes with ‘Don’t Tread on Florida’ gator” via Skylar Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis is using a new slogan to fire up his supporters, a “Don’t Tread on Florida” sign featuring the state’s signature reptile. DeSantis’ supporters waved yellow signs modeled after the Gadsden flag, a Revolutionary War-era banner popular with conservative groups. Instead of a coiled rattlesnake, DeSantis’ version has an alligator. The Governor unveiled the sign during an event Thursday calling for a special legislative session to address COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the workplace.

—”DeSantis delivers anti-Joe Biden red meat during Sunday TV hit” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

A law-and-order DeSantis enforcer finds himself on the wrong end of the law” via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union — Federal prosecutors in South Florida last month filed a misdemeanor criminal charge of obstructing a navigable waterway against Tom Grady, the chair of the state board of education and an enforcer of DeSantis‘ crusade against local school officials who have implemented mask mandates for students and staff. Grady pleaded not guilty on Oct. 8 to the charge, which was first reported this week by the Key West Citizen, and he was released after posting a $50,000 bond. Few details are available about the case, which involves a 2017 excavation project for an Islamorada property Monroe County records show was sold in 2018 for $4.1 million.

Jimmy Patronis urges In-N-Out to come to Florida: ‘I hope your story inspires’ others” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Patronis is welcoming In-N-Out Burger to Florida, offering the state as a refuge from California’s “absurd” COVID-19 mandates. The invitation comes as the burger chain and the City of San Francisco lock horns over a COVID-19 vaccine mandate at restaurants. The city’s public health department shut down the Golden City’s sole In-N-Out location for failure to comply. “We refuse to become the vaccination police,” Arnie Wensinger, In-N-Out’s chief legal officer. In a letter to In-N-Out Burger President Lynsi Snyder, Patronis applauded the move and lamented California’s handling of the pandemic. The state, he wrote, is working to “crush your business with absurd mandates.”

Could it happen? Jimmy Patronis thinks so.

Florida to stop investing in Ben & Jerry’s parent company Tuesday over Israel-Palestine boycott” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Starting Tuesday, Florida will cease share purchases of British consumer goods conglomerate Unilever PLC over a decision by a subsidiary, ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s, to stop selling its products the West Bank and Gaza. The move comes three months after DeSantis directed Ash Williams, executive director and chief investment officer of the Florida State Board of Administration, to place Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company on the Florida List of Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel. DeSantis set the Tuesday deadline days after Ben & Jerry’s announced it would no longer sell its products in the Palestinian territories at the end of 2022, when its license agreement there expires.

‘These findings boggle my mind’: Audit savages Florida program to aid brain-damaged kids” via Carol Marbin Miller and Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — Case managers at Florida’s $1.5 billion compensation program for catastrophically brain-damaged children didn’t consult specialists to determine whether medications, therapy, medical supplies and surgical procedures were “medically necessary” to the health of children in the plan. They relied on Google instead. The Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association, or NICA, arbitrarily decides who may be compensated for care and how much. Administrators developed no system for resolving disputes with angry parents, discouraged parents from appealing denials to an administrative court, and didn’t maintain a system for storing and tracking denials or complaints. Those are some of the findings of an audit performed by the Office of Insurance Regulation, which oversees the industry for the Florida Cabinet.

Seminole Tribe fighting two-front battle to keep exclusivity” via Jake Stofan of WJHG — The Seminole Tribe has been using the airwaves to fight against citizen initiatives seeking to expand gaming beyond tribal lands. The Tribe has pumped $10 million into the new ad campaign airing across the state. But Christina Johnson with Florida Education Champions, the group backing an initiative to legalize sports betting, argued the Tribe’s message is hypocritical. That’s because the Tribe supported Amendment 3 in 2018, which gave voters ultimate control over gambling in Florida. “The Seminole bosses are spending millions of dollars asking Florida voters not to sign a petition on the very same issue: to have a voice in the expansion of gaming,” said Johnson. The Tribe is also defending its new compact with the state in the courts.

— DATELINE TALLY —

Can Florida quit OSHA over vaccines? Top GOP lawmakers will try” via Lawrence Mower and Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — Hours after Thursday’s unexpected request by DeSantis for lawmakers to return to Tallahassee and pass laws against vaccine mandates, Florida’s top GOP legislators said Florida should remove itself from direct federal oversight of the OSHA. The proposal was a reaction to the Biden administration announcing a rule to be enforced by that agency that says private businesses with 100 or more employees must require their workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo weekly testing. Instead of submitting directly to federal regulations, Florida would create its own workforce safety program, an idea that could cost millions and make the state the first to withdraw from direct OSHA oversight in nearly 40 years.

Florida out of OSHA? Ron DeSantis wants lawmakers to find a way.

Florida redistricting process moves slowly, but still deals Democrats setbacks” via John Kennedy of USA Today Network — In the first month of Florida lawmakers taking initial steps toward redrawing congressional and legislative boundaries, Democrats and allied groups have already lost early political skirmishes. So far, Democrats have failed to gain support for repeated calls to hold some kind of public hearings before maps are crafted. A decade ago, Republican leaders devoted four months to more than two dozen such hearings; but now say a pandemic-related time crunch makes a roadshow impossible. Earlier this week, in another setback for Democratic allies, Senate Redistricting Chair Ray Rodrigues ordered committee staff to begin work on their first maps, “without regard to the preservation of existing district boundaries.”

Polk legislators likely to influence abortion laws” via Gary White of the Lakeland Ledger — Legislators from Polk County could play a significant role in attempts to pass new restrictions on abortion in next year’s session. Following the passage in Texas of the nation’s most restrictive law, Republican leaders of the Florida House and Senate have said they will push for new measures in 2022. It’s not clear if they will try to replicate the Texas law, which is facing legal challenges. Sen. Kelli Stargel has sponsored bills limiting abortion in various ways during her 13 years in the Legislature. Rep. Colleen Burton chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee, which will review proposed abortion-related bills.

Ethics Commission confirms violations in Jackie Toledo financial disclosures” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — An investigation by the Florida Commission on Ethics confirmed reported errors on two of Rep. Toledo’s recent financial disclosure forms. The Tampa Republican and District 60 representative admitted two errors on her 2017 and 2018 “Full and Public Disclosure of Financial Interests” Form 6. Toledo in 2017 failed to disclose profits from the sale of a Tampa home. And in 2018, she said she submitted Form 6 with an attached asset list, but no such list was attached. Elizabeth Miller was the Ethics Commission’s prosecutor on the case. Miller said since Toledo is a sitting Representative, the case will go to House Speaker Chris Sprowls for further investigation and potential action.

Mistakes were made.

Happening today — The Santa Rosa County legislative delegation holds a public meeting: Sen. Doug Broxson; Reps. Jayer Williamson and Alex Andrade, 5:30 p.m., Santa Rosa County Commission Chamber, 6495 Caroline St., Milton.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida’s weekly tally of additional COVID-19 deaths falls below 1,000” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — For the first time since the beginning of August, Florida has recorded fewer than 1,000 additional COVID-19 deaths in a week. The latest COVID-19 Weekly Situation Report from the Florida Department of Health added 944 COVID-19 deaths to the state’s toll. That’s down from 1,192 fatalities recorded the previous week and considerably below the worst-ever week of 2,468, which the state recorded in the third report of September. The new state report was the first since the state’s Aug. 6 dispatch to record fewer than 1,000 additional COVID-19 deaths statewide. The new status closes a tragic ten-week run of four-figure weekly tallies of Floridians who had perished because of the disease.

Florida adds 15,314 COVID-19 cases, 944 deaths in past week” via Ian Hodgson of the Tampa Bay Times

With gentle pushback, businesses want Florida to let them choose their vaccine rules” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — As DeSantis calls legislators into Special Session next month, the quiet pushback of the powerful business industry is already being felt. Although the Governor may have declared war on employer vaccine mandates, he has also carefully steered clear of any talk that he will ask legislators to outlaw the practice by private employers, as Texas lawmakers tried and failed to do this month when faced with business opposition in that state. Here, Florida businesses are saying they want lawmakers to let them keep their options open when it comes to knowing what’s best for keeping their employees safe.

Mark Wilson says businesses know best.

How South Florida hospitals are helping their health care workers through the pandemic” via Ana Veciana-Suarez for the Miami Herald — The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented levels of stress and need to the health care field. In response, hospital foundations, nonprofits and caring individuals rose to the occasion. From donated meals to outright cash, from free mindfulness classes to impromptu musical concerts, community gifts went a long way in recognizing the efforts of nurses, doctors, cafeteria workers, transportation techs and anyone on the front line of care delivery. “Donations of all kinds and sizes came from many different sources,” said Kevin Janser, President of the Memorial and Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundations.

Panel: Federal funds for School Board members’ salaries don’t violate gift rules” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Broward County School Board members would not be violating state gift rules for public officials if they accepted their salary from the U.S. Department of Education, the state Ethics Commission ruled in a split vote Friday after a thorny debate that had two tie-votes. Whether they will ever get their salaries is a different question entirely, though. Some Ethics Commission members didn’t want to approve the advisory staff opinion that the grant from USDOE to the Broward School Board in no way violated state gift rules for public officials. Broward County School Board Chairwoman Rosalind Osgood asked for the ethics panel’s advisory opinion because of a $420,957 federal grant to compensate Broward School Board members who have lost their salaries.

Brevard schools mask mandate allows parental opt-out as local COVID-19 cases fall” via Bailey Gallion of Florida Today — Brevard Public Schools announced evening it would allow parents to opt their children out of wearing face masks at school effective immediately. The School Board’s mask mandate authorized BPS Superintendent Mark Mullins to allow parental opt-outs if weekly cases dropped to 50 per 100,000 in Brevard County. On Friday, data from the Florida Department of Health showed 50.1 out of 100,000 Brevard residents tested positive over the past seven days. Parents were notified of the change and provided an opt-out form via email. The mask mandate is set to expire on Oct. 29 if the School Board does not choose to extend it.

—“COVID-19 cases and deaths still on downward trend in Brevard County” via Amira Sweilem of Florida Today

COVID-19 has taken its toll on Duval students’ mental health — here’s what the district’s doing about it” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville’s I’m A Star Foundation students surveyed students over the summer to ask about their mental well-being. Out of nearly 60 Duval County students asked, more than half reported a decline in their mental health compared to before the pandemic. New student support includes a free telehealth option for virtual doctor’s visits. Services offered through telehealth include short-term scheduled therapy sessions that can help cope with anxiety, depression, grief, peer and family relationships and bullying.

Polk County’s COVID-19 rate at lowest level since May” via Gary White of The Lakeland Ledger — Polk County is at its lowest level of COVID-19 infections since May, before the emergence of the delta variant generated the most intense phase of the pandemic. The Florida Department of Health reported 548 new cases for the county in the week ending Thursday, a decline of 18.4% from the previous week. The occurrence of new infections has dropped for eight consecutive weeks since reaching a peak in late August. The agency’s weekly update registered the positive rate on testing for Polk County residents at 4.2%, down from 4.4% in the previous weekly report. That is the lowest reported level since May. Polk County’s positivity rate peaked at 28.9% in mid-August.

Sarasota County deputy dies from COVID-19” via Fox 13 News — Joshua Welge, a deputy with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, died from COVID-19 on Thursday morning. Deputy Welge joined the agency in 1999 as a corrections deputy before becoming law enforcement certified. He served with the Venice Police Department from 2001 to 2007 before rejoining the ranks of the sheriff’s office later in 2007. Deputy Welge’s last shift was on August 19. The agency says he spent the last few weeks battling COVID-19 and succumbed to the virus on Thursday morning. Like many first responders who have lost their life to COVID-19, Deputy Welge’s passing is recognized as a line of duty death.

End of watch: Joshua Welge is the latest LEO taken by COVID-19.

An unexpected pandemic consequence frustrates Florida’s biggest city” via Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — The disruption to America’s economy created by the coronavirus pandemic has led to, in cities like Jacksonville, a small but growing indignity: garbage left out to rot. In Jacksonville, the delays in waste hauling became so bad in late summer and early fall that piles could be seen all over town. Mayor Lenny Curry announced a temporary suspension of curbside recycling this month so that city sanitation crews and private contractors would have more time to clear the backlog of trash and yard waste. That was after the city had tried to pick up the slack by paying employees from the parks, public works and fire departments nearly $100,000 in overtime to take extra shifts driving garbage trucks.

— 2022 —

#FirstInSunburnRemove Ron ad spotlights DeSantis’ ‘inhumane’ anti-abortion stance — On Monday, the Democratic “Remove Ron” PAC is releasing “Inhumane,” a new ad attacking DeSantis on comments made about Florida creating its version of the controversial Texas anti-abortion law.

“I’m pro-life; I welcome pro-life legislation,” DeSantis says in the ad.

“Really, Ron?” a female voice-over says. “Next year … Florida’s women will show you … where we stand.”

It comes on the heels of news Friday that the U.S. Supreme Court would take up a case on the Texas law essentially banning abortions after six weeks.

Lawyer Daniel Uhlfelder is behind the Remove Ron PAC, set up to help defeat DeSantis in 2022. Uhlfelder is best known for attempting to close Florida beaches during the COVID-19 pandemic dressed as the “Grim Reaper.”

To view “Inhumane,” click on the image below:

Would Florida’s Democratic candidates for Governor sign a Nikolas Cruz death warrant?” via Samantha J. Gross and Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — During its 2016 national convention in Orlando, the Democratic Party added abolishing the death penalty to its official party platform. But five years later, Democratic candidates vying to challenge DeSantis are breaking with that stance. As the gunman in Florida’s deadliest school shooting faces a possible death sentence, Charlie Crist, Fried and Annette Taddeo all say they would support the death penalty in the most egregious cases, and none supported the idea of abolishing Death Row.

Matt Gaetz’s campaign continues to operate at a loss” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — In the third quarter, he raised $527,150, his weakest quarter this year by far. Moreover, he spent $627,129. Donations for the quarter included $495,910 in individual contributions. In the cycle to date, he has pulled in an impressive $4.26 million in contributions from people across the country. But donations took a significant decline after news of a still-unresolved sex scandal. Gaetz raised $1.83 million in the first quarter of the year, spending $1.35 million. Then in the second quarter, he raised $1.46 million, but burned through $1.95 million. So, where does the money go? Plenty has gone to lawyers, including $10,338 to legal consulting from Venable last quarter alone.

Democrats running to succeed Alcee Hastings in Florida spend big on themselves” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Donors aren’t opening their wallets in a Democratic primary that will decide who replaces U.S. Rep. Hastings, so the candidates are reaching into their own. Six of the nine Democratic candidates in Florida’s 20th Congressional District who have filed campaign finance reports have lent their campaigns thousands (and in one case millions) of dollars. Leading the way is Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a health care executive from Hollywood who ran against Hastings in 2020 and was campaigning for a rematch before his death in April. Cherfilus-McCormick, who lent $2.3 million to her campaign earlier this year, invested another $1.

First on #FlaPol — “Rebekah Jones’ campaign releases mailer labeling DeSantis as ‘cruel, corrupt’” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Former Florida COVID-19 data analyst Jones has kick-started her congressional campaign by sending out mailers criticizing DeSantis and Gaetz, describing them as “cruel, corrupt and criminal.” Jones is starting her campaign on an aggressive note. The mailer, paid for by Jones’ campaign account, contrasts her experience and priorities with that of incumbent Gaetz and leans on criticisms of DeSantis. The mailer accuses DeSantis of “lying about COVID-19 stats” and “firing, attacking and even raiding whistleblowers and scientists who reported his lies.” While DeSantis has been criticized by some for his response to the pandemic, which resulted in over 60,000 deaths in Florida alone, Jones does not point to any references for the accusations.

Rebekah Jones lobs yet another attack at Ron DeSantis.

Anna Paulina Luna spent about $38k of campaign funds for legal fight” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay TimesLuna’s unsuccessful legal fight seeking a permanent stalking injunction cost $37,612 that she covered by using money she’s raised for her run for a St. Petersburg district in Congress. Luna’s campaign spent the cash on Dickinson Wright PLLC, the firm where her attorney for the injunction case, Alan Perlman, works as a bankruptcy lawyer. The FEC, which enforces U.S. campaign finance law, allows political contributions to be used on legal fees on a case-by-case basis. An expenditure is prohibited if the agency determines that it’s for personal use and unrelated to their candidacy.

— “Sheila Griffin backs Anna Paulina Luna for CD 13 run” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

Anna Eskamani kicks off reelection campaign with new video — Rep. Eskamani released a new campaign video, titled “Working For You, Fighting For Us,” that focuses on some of her accomplishments during her second term in the Legislature, including helping more than 50,000 jobless Floridians secure unemployment benefits after the state system collapsed. “At Team Anna, we’re not here to cause chaos, or create problems. We’re here transform the face and feel of Florida politics,” Eskamani said. “It’s such a thrill to be launching our 2022 Reelection Campaign and to build upon the incredible work we have already done.” Eskamani will officially kick off her 2022 campaign Monday at 6 p.m. with a virtual celebration featuring local speakers and actor Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame.

To watch the video, click on the image below:

This guy — “Waurishuk dismissive of letter from Florida GOP Chairman Joe Gruters” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Following a grievance against him by a fellow local party official, Hillsborough County Republican Party Chairman Jim Waurishuk spoke dismissively in a recent party meeting of a letter from the state party demanding corrective action. Meanwhile, the local party passed a resolution backing a move by state Rep. Anthony Sabatini for a “forensic audit” of the 2020 Florida election. The resolution contended that “a majority of citizens doubt that the Nov. 3, 2020, election was conducted openly and fairly.” In another development, longtime Hillsborough Republican activist and political donor Hung Mai sent a letter this week to all elected Republican legislators from Hillsborough County, asking them to seek Waurishuk’s resignation.

— CORONA NATION —

Choose your news:

Experts predict an easier COVID-19 winter this year” via Tina Reed of Axios — Last winter was the deadliest phase of the pandemic, and many Americans are braced for cold weather to once again usher in a surge in cases and deaths. But there are good reasons to think this year won’t be nearly as bad. “I sort of think we’re in a version of what our reality is going to be for the foreseeable future,” Bob Wachter, chair of the University of California, San Francisco Department of Medicine, said. “Maybe it gets 10 or 20% better; maybe it gets 10 or 20% worse. But I can’t see it getting 90% better or 90% worse,” he said.

… or …

The lingering question: How bad might the COVID-19 winter be?” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — For all of the criticism that Fauci has received, and he’s received a lot, one assessment of the country’s top infectious-disease expert is accurate: he does not sugarcoat his concerns. Late last month, Fauci was asked by CBS News’s Major Garrett whether the United States would see a second “dark winter” in a row, referencing Biden’s description of what was to come shortly after his election in Nov. 2020. As the country’s fourth coronavirus wave emerged during the summer and swept across the South, this was the alarm that kept ringing for those of us who live in the North.

How bad will COVID-19 get this Christmas? It’s anyone’s guess.

Inside the messy race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine” via Brendan Borrell of Esquire — Bob Kadlec was the former Air Force doctor and intelligence officer who ran the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. Peter Marks was the director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. Marks relayed to Kadlec conversations with drugmakers, which seemed to have a “defeatist attitude” when it came to the COVID-19 vaccine timeline. Johnson & Johnson was talking about 2022 as a realistic target. Now the two men were setting their sights on a Manhattan Project for vaccines. Marks felt that there should be close collaboration among the U.S. agencies and with international vaccine efforts. This was a kumbaya moment, “a time,” Marks told Kadlec, “for countries to come together.”

FDA review appears to pave the way for Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 5 to 11” via Carolyn Y. Johnson and Laurie McGinley of The Washington Post — The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine appears poised to become available to children 5 to 11 years old within weeks, after an FDA review found the benefits of the shot outweigh the risks in most scenarios, with the possible exception of when there are very low levels of viral transmission. The review found that for four scenarios that were weighed, “the benefits of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine 2-dose primary series clearly outweigh the risks.” But in one, when the virus was at its lowest levels, there could be more hospitalizations related to a rare heart side effect associated with the vaccine than the number of hospitalizations prevented from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

Americans abroad search for a first vaccine dose as millions at home get their third one” via The Washington Post — Army veteran Leighton Slattery, 83, who lives with his daughter outside of Jakarta, Indonesia, says the two have spent much of the year housebound as they implored officials to share coronavirus vaccines donated by the U.S. government. In Bangalore, India, Asray Gopa, 17, still waits to get vaccinated because — unlike his friends in the United States — he is not old enough to obtain the shots under that country’s rules. And in Bangkok, businessman Charlie Blocker, 59, spent weeks scouring that city for a vaccine as the coronavirus exploded. But he got nowhere even as the U.S. government shipped doses to its embassy.

CDC director: U.S. may change definition of “fully vaccinated” as boosters roll out” via Oriana Gonzalez of Axios — Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said Friday the U.S. “may need to update” its definition for what it means to have full vaccination against COVID-19. The CDC and the FDA have officially approved boosters with every authorized vaccine in the U.S. for people who meet specific requirements. Walensky explained that since not everyone is eligible for a booster, the definition has not been changed “yet.” Currently, the CDC’s definition is the following: “Fully vaccinated persons are those who are ≥14 days post-completion of the primary series of an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine.”

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

PortMiami goes fishing for more cargo business as ships back up off California coast” via Anna Jean Kaiser of the Miami Herald — With dozens of cargo ships backed up as far as the eye can see off the coast of Southern California, Miami sees an opportunity. PortMiami, along with others in Florida, has been running smoothly during the supply chain crunch. PortMiami officials say there’s been record cargo offloading recently, but only one ship needed to drop anchor and wait in the past six weeks. “It’s really unprecedented,” said Juan Kuryla, the director of PortMiami, adding that he’s “never seen this type of volume” in over 23 years working at the port. The port has seen consistent increases of 8-12% in cargo activity each month over the past year, officials said.

PortMiami seeks to pick up the slack. Image via AP.

— MORE CORONA —

CDC director encourages Halloween trick-or-treating” via David Cohen of POLITICO — CDC Director Walensky on Sunday encouraged families to celebrate Halloween and other holidays amid the COVID-19 pandemic, though still urged “prevention strategies.“ Speaking to host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” she said, “I would say put on those costumes, stay outside and enjoy your trick-or-treating.“ She did qualify those remarks, noting the continuing potential for the spread of COVID-19 even as the infection rate from the delta variant has slowed in recent weeks.

Rochelle Walensky urges families to scare up some fun for Halloween and other holidays. Image via AP.

People vaccinated against COVID-19 less likely to die of other causes — study” via The Jerusalem Post — People who received COVID-19 vaccines are less likely to die from other causes than those who are not vaccinated. The study, led by Stanley Xu from Kaiser Permanente Southern California, considered people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, finding that those who received multiple doses of any vaccine had lower mortality rates than those who received only one dose. “A cohort study was conducted during December 2020 — July 2021 among approximately 11 million persons enrolled in seven Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) sites,” the report said.

Think a mild case of COVID-19 is no big deal? Think again.” via Trish Zornio of Florida Phoenix — More than 44.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Of them, over 715,000 have died. But what about the millions who lived? Have they fully recovered? According to new research, perhaps not. A complete understanding will require years of study, but researchers are starting to unravel some complexities. So far, a key theme is emerging: The range of impact is not limited to patients with moderate to severe symptoms, but rather cognitive deficits might be seen even in asymptomatic or mild cases. Given roughly a third of cases might be asymptomatic, this could have stunning implications.

Even a mild case of COVID-19 can have long-lasting effects. Image via AP.

Unvaccinated Oregon workers who had COVID-19 argued they don’t need a vaccine. A judge denied their request.” via Timothy Bella of The Washington Post — An Oregon federal judge has denied an emergency motion brought by seven unvaccinated workers who sought to block the state’s vaccine mandate or create an exemption for people like themselves who already had the virus and argue they do not need to be vaccinated. U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken wrote in her opinion Tuesday that the U.S. Constitution offers no fundamental right for someone to refuse vaccination, adding that the shots are in Oregon’s best interest to help slow the spread of the virus. In her 26-page opinion, Aiken said that people’s safety was more important than whatever individual challenges unvaccinated workers might face by not getting immunized.

COVID-19 strategies resulted in ‘almost zero’ infections at summer camps, CDC says” via Jordan Smith of Fox 13 — Overnight camps that followed strategies aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 were quite successful this summer, according to a study published by the CDC. The CDC analyzed 7,173 campers and staff members at nine overnight camps from June to August. Only nine laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 occurred. And none of those cases resulted in reinfections. The camps worked with the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Camp Association as well as state and local departments to design protocols specific to their individual site. All camps required their attendees to wear masks and practice social distancing for two weeks before their arrival. Once they arrived, they had to produce a negative result from a COVID-19 test taken no more than three days beforehand.


— PRESIDENTIAL —

The pessimistic electorate behind Biden’s approval ratings” via Nate Cohn of The New York TimesBiden’s approval ratings have declined on nearly every issue and among almost every demographic group in national surveys over the last two months, as the promise of a return to normalcy has given way to rising inflation, a simmering pandemic, gridlock in Washington and chaos on the border and Afghanistan. The President’s approval ratings have sunk into the low-to-mid-40s, putting him into a rather lonely historical company. In the era of modern polling, only Trump had a lower approval rating at this early stage of his term. The polls seem to depict a pessimistic and even hopeless electorate. Not only do Americans believe the nation is on the wrong track, but they also say the country is worse off than it was a year ago when Trump was still President.

Donald Trump and Joe Biden have one thing in common. Image via AP.

Biden’s critics hurl increasingly vulgar taunts” via Ashley Parker and Carissa Wolf of The Washington Post — The ubiquity of Trump signs, especially in rural stretches of the country, has long been striking and possibly unprecedented for a losing candidate, especially nearly a year after the election. But now, in towns like Boise, in states both red and blue, and almost all across the country, anti-Biden signs are cropping up as well, frequently with angry and profane insults. Some of the signs are scrawled by hand. Others are bought on Amazon. Still others are professionally procured. The crude signs are held by people lined up along Biden’s motorcade routes and clustered near his events. Protesters shout obscenities from outside his appearances. “One of the many legacies of the Trump presidency is he normalized angry speech,” said Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist, and Trump critic.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Democrats’ problem is not focusing on issues most vital to independents, two prominent pollsters say” via Paul Kane of The Washington Post — In late 2009 and early 2010, with unemployment hovering around 10%, key swing voters cared most about jobs and not expanding access to health insurance. Today’s voters appear to be most concerned about the ongoing pandemic and are not deeply invested in the haggling over proposals such as expanding Medicare coverage to include dental, hearing and vision benefits. Seventy percent of independent voters said the country was headed in the wrong direction. Independent voters chose “economy/inflation/jobs” as their top concern, with “immigration and border security” close behind and then “COVID-19 pandemic recovery.”

Negotiations for Build Back Better are taking up so much bandwidth; Democrats are falling out of sync with many swing voters. Image via AP.

Dems weigh ditching Medicare expansion and paid leave in 11th hour of social spending talks” via Heather Caygle, Alice Miranda Ollstein, Eleanor Mueller, and Marianne Levine of POLITICO — Democrats are haggling over whether to drop two of the most popular elements of their social spending bill as negotiations reach the zero hour, according to a half-dozen sources close to the discussions. While high-level talks on the $1 trillion-plus package are ongoing, lawmakers, staffers, advocates and lobbyists said that a plan to expand Medicare with dental, vision and hearing benefits for tens of millions of seniors is now in danger of getting cut from the bill entirely. One senior Democratic aide said discussions on Medicare and paid leave were “in flux.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have said they want a deal by the end of this week

Poll: Stephanie Murphy constituents support health care provisions in Biden spending plan” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Protect Our Care, a group advocating for lower drug costs, is promoting new polling showing constituents in U.S. Rep. Murphy’s district back multiple proposals in Biden’s spending plan relating to Medicare and Medicaid. The new survey shows constituents in Murphy’s district support the plan’s proposals relating to health care costs. The survey showed 87% of voters in Florida’s 7th Congressional District say the price of prescription drugs is too high, and 80% back proposed provisions to allow Medicare the ability to negotiate lower drug prices. Protect Our Care is pushing the new PPP survey hoping Murphy will ultimately support the final legislation with those Medicare provisions included.

Gaetz didn’t pay his Bar tab?” via Andy Marlette of the Pensacola News Journal — According to the Florida Bar, Gaetz was “not eligible to practice law in Florida.” Gaetz’s member profile on the Florida Bar’s website showed that he was delinquent in paying his Bar fees due in August. A staff member confirmed that Gaetz was not currently eligible to practice law in Florida and that he would be required to pay the dues and late fees and file a petition to lift his delinquent status and reinstate his eligibility to practice law. All while under investigation for allegations related to underage sex trafficking and public corruption. And how much was the overdue bill? $465. Yet he’s out there billing himself as a knowledgeable, skilled and legitimate attorney.

Progressive Congresswoman Lois Frankel trades in fossil fuel companies as gas prices rise” via Alex J. Rouhandeh of Newsweek — Frankel purchased somewhere between $4,004 to $60,000 worth of stock in two of the nation’s top greenhouse gas emitters over the past year, according to House financial disclosures. Half of those purchases were made last month amid global energy concerns. The two companies the Florida Democrat invested in—Duke Energy and Dominion Energy—rank number two and 10 respectively, on the Greenhouse 100 Polluters Index by the Political Economy Research Institute. These investments incite potential concerns given the fact that Frankel sits privy to conversations concerning the direction of federal funding as a member of the House Committee on Appropriations.

— CRISIS —

Jan. 6 protest organizers say they participated in ‘dozens’ of planning meetings with members of Congress and White House staff” via Hunter Walker of Rolling Stone — As the House investigation into the Jan. 6 attack heats up, some of the planners of the pro-Trump rallies that took place in Washington, D.C., have begun communicating with congressional investigators and sharing new information about what happened when the former President’s supporters stormed the Capitol. Two of these people detailed explosive allegations multiple members of Congress were intimately involved in planning both Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss and the Jan. 6 events that turned violent.

Inside Facebook, Jan. 6 violence fueled anger, regret over missed warning signs” via Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Reed Albergotti of The Washington Post — SEC documents suggest that Facebook moved too quickly after the election to lift measures that had helped suppress some election-related misinformation. The rushed effort to restore them on Jan. 6 was not enough to stop the surge of hateful, violent posts, documents show. A company after-action report concluded that in the weeks after the election, Facebook did not act forcefully enough against the Stop the Steal movement pushed by Trump’s political allies, even as its presence exploded across the platform. The documents show Facebook identified ways to diminish the spread of political polarization, conspiracy theories and incitements to violence but that in many instances, executives had declined to implement those steps.

Facebook moved too quickly over election misinformation, missing the warning signs of Jan. 6. Image via AP.

Jan. 6 panel seeking information from Facebook and following the money, chair says” via Jordan Wolman of POLITICO — The chair of the special House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol said that his panel is working with Facebook to obtain information and has a team looking into the financing of the rally before the attack. “We think the potential for co-mingling restricted funds for this purpose might be there. But obviously, we’ll look at it,” Rep. Bennie Thompson said. Thompson said the committee is “negotiating” with Facebook to get specific information and isn’t yet ready to determine the social media giant’s role in spreading information ahead of the attack. Another critical question is whether the committee might subpoena Trump.

Ahead of Jan. 6, Willard hotel in downtown D.C. was a Trump team ‘command center’ for effort to deny Biden the presidency” via Jacqueline Alemany, Emma Brown, Tom Hamburger and Jon Swaine of The Washington Post — They called it the “command center,” a set of rooms and suites in the posh Willard hotel a block from the White House where some of President Trump’s most loyal lieutenants were working day and night with one goal in mind: overturning the results of the 2020 election. Their activities included finding and publicizing alleged evidence of fraud, urging members of state legislatures to challenge Biden’s victory and calling on the Trump-supporting public to press Republican officials in key states.

Far-right Oath Keepers group had bigger presence in Sarasota/Manatee than previously known” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — More than 100 current and former residents of Sarasota and Manatee counties appear to have been affiliated with the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group at some point. The apparent Oath Keepers membership list includes a close associate from Sarasota County of Trump‘s adviser Steve Bannon, and a former candidate for sheriff in Manatee County who said he quit the group after he grew concerned about the local chapter becoming “too radicalized” and wanting to become “like a secret militia.” The federal government has charged 20 Oath Keepers with participating in the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

Would-be Speaker Kevin McCarthy walks the Trump tightrope, pursuing a GOP House” via Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — With only a handful of seats needed for Republicans to win control of the House next year and the likely prospect of McCarthy becoming speaker, he has been selling himself as a singular leader of the party, able to stand up to the unpredictable former President without breaking their bond. McCarthy’s effort to lift his party beyond its circumstances has looked a bit more painful in public. He has repeatedly contorted himself to take principled stands against Trump’s most radical behavior, then reversed himself to woo Trump and his allies as they push false claims of election fraud and defend Capitol rioters as “patriots.”

Kevin McCarthy will do just about anything for a GOP House. Image via AP.

Former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, who pushed baseless election fraud claims, expected to testify before Jan. 6 committee” via Katelyn Polantz, Ryan Nobles, Paula Reid and Zachary Cohen of CNN — The House select committee investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection is planning for former Justice Department official Clark to testify — teeing him up to be the first Trump administration official to comply with a subpoena for an interview with the panel, Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat who serves on the committee. Clark’s testimony next Friday could be a significant step forward for Democrats as they attempt to determine what Trump, Republican members of Congress, and his advisers did and said behind closed doors about overturning the results of the 2020 election before Jan. 6.

Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted in campaign finance fraud case” via Shayna Jacobs of The Washington Post — Parnas, a Florida businessman who is an associate of Giuliani‘s, was found guilty on Friday of using funds from a foreign investor to try to influence political candidates through campaign donations. It took the federal jury in U.S. District Court in Manhattan less than a day to find that Parnas committed fraud through donations to several state and federal candidates that were bankrolled by a Russian financier. Parnas was also found guilty on counts related to a $325,000 donation in 2018 to a joint fundraising committee that supported then-President Trump.

Tweet, tweet:

Trump’s new media outlet will go the way of his steaks and mattresses” via Jack Schafer of POLITICO — Trump’s new media startup will soon teach him the public views him more as a Glenn Beck than it does an Oprah Winfrey. Beck, who proved he could hold millions of viewers captive with just palaver and a chalkboard on both CNN and Fox News a decade ago, started his own media company in 2011. His ambitions outran his appeal, requiring steady layoffs and entrenchment. America still liked Beck some, but not enough to build a whole network around. Beck was stimulating, perhaps in small doses, but gag-producing by the swig. Sort of like Trump.

Trump pick’s messy personal life worries Senate Republicans desperate to hold on to Pennsylvania seat” via Michael Warren and Sara Murray of CNN — Sean Parnell may have the backing of former President Trump, but the Pennsylvania Republican has significant personal baggage raising concerns about the GOP’s ability to hold one of the most competitive Senate seats in the country. Documents showed his estranged wife was granted two protective orders against him. Multiple GOP senators and donors are asking Florida Sen. Rick Scott, the powerful chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, about why his political consultants are also working with Parnell in the primary, according to three Republicans with knowledge of those conversations.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Live in Miami and can’t find that tech job? You’re not alone, and here’s why” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — If you’ve been wondering when you’re going to get a piece of the new Miami tech action, you have company. Tech Trail recently wrote that of the more than 1,800 jobs promised by firms moving to or expanding in Miami, fewer than 300 have materialized, though these companies have three years to fulfill those hiring pledges. New local firms appear to prioritize established, out-of-state networks for many of the jobs they do have. Asked about hiring, Matthew Vega-Sanz, CEO and co-founder of Lula, a highly touted, Miami-based car insurance startup, emphasized the talent influx. “Building a purely Miami tech organization is still a challenge,” he said in an email.

What it’s like to visit Miami right now” via Nathan Crooks of Bloomberg — If most cities became eerily quiet during the height of the pandemic, Miami was very much the opposite. People flocked here from all over. Part of that was because it’s a good city to be in if your entire social life is relegated to the outdoors. But spring breakers, tech founders, and pandemic snowbirds were also lured by a laissez-faire state that kept restrictions lax and an opportunistic local government that encouraged remote workers to migrate south. European arrivals are set to resume in November as well, which means the city is about to get a whole lot more crowded, especially with Art Basel Miami Beach scheduled for Dec. 2-4.

Protesters against 2 a.m. booze ban disrupt Miami Beach Mayor during news conference” via Martin Vassolo and Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — An angry group of protesters overwhelmed a South Beach news conference on Friday morning, where Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber attempted to “set the record straight” on claims from opponents in an already muddy fight over a ballot question that asks if voters want to roll back alcohol sales from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. The protesters, who identified themselves as South Beach hospitality workers, drowned out Gelber and his invited speakers with their jeers. They waved signs opposing the 2 a.m. referendum and calling for Gelber’s resignation, chanted in unison, and forced Gelber to end the news conference without taking questions as they followed him to his car two blocks away.

Things get a little heated at a Dan Gelber news conference. Image by Jesse Scheckner.

No end in sight for survivors of the Parkland school massacre” via Rafael Olmeda, Scott Travis, Brittany Wallman, and Brooke Baitinger of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Parkland gunman’s guilty plea this week brought a swift end to the most predictable part of the legal drama surrounding the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but it left far more business unfinished. There are still legal arguments and hearings and a trial to determine whether Nikolas Cruz lives or dies. There are unresolved social and political arguments about preventing something like the Parkland massacre from happening again. For some, it is impossible to expect closure as long as Stoneman Douglas’ 1200 building stands.

‘Either stupidity or racism’: Is Palmetto Bay really trying to ban Cuban ventanitas?” via Samantha Gross and Carlos Frías of the Miami Herald — Miami’s walk-up coffee windows have long been the venue for political debate in South Florida — but now ventanitas themselves are the topic of contention in the village of Palmetto Bay. On Monday, the village voted to codify the procedure to open the walk-up windows that first incorporated Cuban coffee into Miami culture along its busiest corridor, from Southwest 136th Street to 157th along U.S. 1. The language says “walk-up sales windows shall not be permitted” unless a business gets approval from the village’s Planning and Zoning department. That means businesses can still add the windows that are as much a feature of Miami culture as Cuban coffee or freshly baked pastelitos, but they will have to submit plans to get approved.

Husband of Sunny Isles Commissioner invoked wife’s position after alleged hit-and-run” via Aaron Liebowitz of the Miami Herald — When Michael Gates was accused of backing into a parked car at Bal Harbour Shops and then fleeing the scene, he told police multiple times that his wife, Dana Goldman, is an elected official in Sunny Isles Beach. Asked about the June 27 incident Friday, Goldman, who was in the passenger seat at the time, said her husband “acted inappropriately” but declined to say whether she heard him invoke her position or did anything in response. “Let’s be clear, this is my husband’s legal problem, not mine,” Goldman said in an email. “I was NOT driving the vehicle; I was NOT paying attention while I was a passenger.”

Tarpon Springs cops who shot, killed teen shielded by Marsy’s Law” via Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times — The identities of two police officers who shot and killed a 17-year-old boy over the weekend are being withheld under a law intended to protect crime victims. The officers, as well as five others who were at the scene but didn’t fire their guns, invoked their right to remain anonymous under Marsy’s Law, an amendment to the state constitution, Tarpon Springs police Maj. Frank Ruggiero said. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting, which killed Alexander King, an 11th grader at Tarpon Springs High School. Police encountered King on Saturday night after receiving reports that he was pointing an AK-style rifle at passing cars on N Pinellas Avenue.

Tennis courts, broadband, new library: How Escambia County could spend $62M in ARPA funds” via Emma Kennedy of the Pensacola News Journal — Escambia County has taken the next steps on a series of American Rescue Plan Act projects, including countywide broadband and upgrades to the Roger Scott Tennis Center in the city limits. The projects have not been approved or funded, but the Escambia County Commission’s approval to move the projects to the next step allows city staff to further refine the costs associated with each project and the timeliness and feasibility of the projects. The county has $61.7 million in ARPA funds that it needs to have allocated by the end of 2024 and then spent by the end of 2026. The total cost of the suggested project is more than $61.7 million, but the project outlines state that county officials would seek grants and other funding sources to bring the cost down.

Group asks U.S. Supreme Court to consider monument suit against Lakeland” via Gary White of The Lakeland Ledger — A group that advocates for preserving Confederate monuments is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider its appeal of a lawsuit against Lakeland over the removal of a cenotaph from Munn Park. Save Southern Heritage Florida held a news conference Friday morning in Munn Park to announce that it has requested that the Supreme Court consider the case. A United States District Judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, and an appeal moved to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year. That court also rejected the appeal.

Controversial code enforcement officer resigns from Sarasota County” via Anne Snabes of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Code enforcement officer Harvey Ayers has resigned from his position in the Sarasota County government. “I think it’s a long time coming,” said Maria Gomez, a former county resident who filed a complaint against Ayers in 2017. An investigation revealed that numerous homeowners and contractors have filed grievances against Ayers, accusing him and the county of violating their constitutional rights. Ayers’ resignation letter was addressed to Matt Osterhoudt, the county’s planning and development services director, and contains only one sentence. “This letter is to notify you that I am resigning my position with Sarasota County effective two weeks from today,” he wrote in the letter.

Harvey Ayers resigns, to the delight of many disgruntled Sarasota homeowners.

Fake email scams affect businesses worldwide — even Disney” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — A Winter Park title company fell victim to an email scam this summer and unwittingly paid $160,000 for a mortgage that ended up in the bank account of a Midwesterner with ties to overseas criminal enterprises, according to federal court documents. The federal complaint doesn’t name the Florida title company but does detail how the scheme unfolded after the title company got emails and documents that seemed authentic. The title company’s client sold property, and $160,342 was supposed to be paid at closing to the mortgage holder. The title company’s closing agent emailed the property seller to get documents from the seller’s ex-wife to finish the deal.

— TOP OPINION —

Build Back Better is falling short of what Biden promised” via The Washington Post editorial board — Democrats have an opportunity to reinforce the social safety net, address climate change and combat wealth inequality, without burdening future generations with new debt or stoking inflation. But as they hammer out their “reconciliation” package, they are in danger of falling tragically short. To satisfy moderates, especially Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Democrats are reportedly looking to fund their reconciliation bill without raising top-line tax rates on wealthy individuals and profitable corporations. Instead, they are considering imposing a corporate alternative minimum tax, creating a 15% minimum tax for multinationals’ overseas profits, and curbing tax evasion by pumping up the IRS. Democrats reckon these sorts of measures would still cover the roughly $2 trillion over 10 years they believe their final package would cost.

— OPINIONS —

The confusing Biden” via The Wall Street Journal editorial boardBiden often doesn’t seem to know what he’s talking about. Asked if he’d call in the National Guard to address the shortage of truckers, Biden said he would. But the deployment of the Guard is actually controlled by Governors. Biden’s confusion extended to foreign policy, which is supposed to be his strength. We take no pleasure in pointing this out, since the U.S. needs a President who can handle the strains of the job. Biden was never Demosthenes, and all Presidents stumble in speech. But Biden’s frequent public confusion about the major issues of the day is a reason for the growing public concern.

Florida’s lawmakers must not forget Florida’s abysmal COVID-19 track record” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — DeSantis wants to make it hard for employers to require their workers to get a COVID-19 vaccination. He’s so serious about his version of ensuring “personal freedoms” that he has called for the Legislature to meet in a special session next month to create laws to punish businesses that enact vaccine mandates. Among other proposals, DeSantis wants those businesses to be financially liable for any medical harm that results from mandatory vaccinations. Conservatives like DeSantis usually bend over backward to support business and free enterprise. Now DeSantis doesn’t seem to have any problem twisting businesses’ arms.

I’m a Florida school board member. This is how protesters come after me.” via Jennifer Jenkins for The Washington Post — Protesters became regulars outside school board meetings. Trump flags waved in the parking lot. Young children shouted into megaphones, “Don’t touch me, pedophiles!” LGBTQ students tried to speak while adults chanted “Shame!” Those who couldn’t get in banged on the windows and doors. By April, protesters had begun to gather not just at board meetings but also in front of my house. A group of about 15 shouted “Pedophiles!” as my neighbors walked their dogs, pushing their infants in strollers. “We’re coming for you,” they yelled. “We’re coming at you like a freight train! We are going to make you beg for mercy. If you thought Jan. 6 was bad, wait until you see what we have for you!”

Parents claim they have the right to shape their kids’ school curriculum. They don’t.” via Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire of The Washington Post — In their search for issues that will deliver Congress in 2022, conservatives have begun to circle around the cause of “parents’ rights.” A growing number of states are allowing parents to sue districts that teach banned concepts. Given this frenzy, one might reasonably conclude that radicals are out to curtail the established rights that Americans have over the educational sphere. Yet what’s actually radical here is the assertion of parental powers that have never previously existed. Common law and case law in the United States have long supported the idea that education should prepare young people to think for themselves, even if that runs counter to the wishes of parents.

In the Miami Mayor’s race, there aren’t any great choices. But voters have to pick anyway” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Miami is not an easy city to govern. It has deepening inequities, an urgent need to address climate change and divisive politics that continue to cripple the city, as we’ve seen with the debacle over the short-lived tenure of Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo. In the race for Mayor, the choice has become exceedingly difficult, for the Miami Herald editorial board and for voters. Mayor Francis Suarez is the only candidate with the experience and knowledge for the job, but his behavior during Acevedo’s termination has been so lacking that we are hard put to look past it. There are four other candidates, plus one more who has just been found ineligible to run. None has held office or displayed the sort of hard work and investment in the city that shows they are serious.

PACE is our path to a resilient future” via Julio Fuentes of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — It’s nearly impossible for millions of Floridians to access the capital or financing options needed to make storm-hardening upgrades to our homes and businesses. We need to be able to protect ourselves and our investments. And that’s where PACE comes in. The program, short for Property Assessed Clean Energy, uses an innovative public-private partnership model that allows property owners to invest in substantial resiliency and energy upgrades, ranging from impact windows and doors to wind-resistant roofing, rooftop solar panels and more.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

DeSantis makes a pitch for anti-vax law enforcement and first responders to move to the Sunshine State.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Leaders at the Florida Department of Corrections are calling on lawmakers to increase funding to help the system they say is in crisis.

— And Florida’s unemployment rate dropped slightly in September.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Universal Halloween Horror Nights offers the usual scares but with COVID-19 frights, too” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — Halloween Horror Nights returned this year to an enthusiastic fan reception after its cancellation in 2020, but its fake frights brought real fear for some fans who worried about contracting COVID-19 in packed lines and haunted houses. Although Orange County health officer Dr. Raul Pino said local health officials had not linked any outbreaks of COVID-19 to the event, he said it “probably has happened” on a small scale. The 30th annual Halloween Horror Nights opened Sept. 3, and its opening week saw a high 17.86% local and 15.2% statewide COVID-19 positivity rate amid concerns about the virus’ highly infectious Delta variant. Health officials say anything over 5% is considered a virus out of control.

Mixed among the fake scares at HHN, a few real ones. Image via Universal.

May-Stringer House owns its ‘Florida’s most haunted’ title” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Orlando Sentinel — The May-Stringer House looks like a gingerbread-trimmed Victorian home overlooking the city of Brooksville. It’s reportedly one of Florida’s most haunted spots. The back story, as in most ghost stories, lies in tragedy. With more than 160 years of history in the house, at least 11 different ghosts have been identified by dozens of searchers of the paranormal. Restoration volunteers heard footsteps and voices in empty rooms. Workers noticed cold spots, mists and eerie shadows. Museum guides have reported moving shadows, glowing orbs of light and the sound of a crying child. Other ghosts, they believe, are linked to the story of plantation life in Florida. An angry spirit known as Mr. Nasty has been said to curse visitors.

Tampa’s La Segunda Bakery is bringing its Cuban bread to Publix” via Bernadette Berdychowski of the Tampa Bay Times — One of Tampa’s oldest bakeries is expanding its reach across Tampa Bay. La Segunda Bakery and Cafe announced Publix is now carrying its signature Cuban bread. The iconic Ybor City bakery was founded more than a century ago and is a staple of Tampa’s culinary history. La Segunda’s Cuban bread is currently available for $2.99 at six Publix stores in Tampa: Hillsborough Plaza, Westchase shopping mall, Carrollwood Square, Channel Club, Westgate Plaza, and Hillsborough Avenue While La Segunda’s Cuban bread is limited to a few stores, the announcement said the bakery plans to provide to more Publix locations in the future.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are Holly Bell, Eric Conrad, Mara Frazier, and Chuck Urban. Belated best wishes to former Sen. Mel Martinez, Rep. Kamia Brown, Kelly Cohen and Erin Rock of The Southern Group.

___

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

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


One comment

  • Tom

    October 25, 2021 at 6:33 am

    America’s Governor Trifecta:

    Yes, 85,000 net new employment jobs in Florida, announced late last week. Florida’s employment rate drops to 4.9%.

    Covid drops 90% in Florida. Governors initiated 25 Monoclonal centers diminish, decrease those who were infected, saving them from illness and hospitalization.

    Jax/Port and rest of Florida ports open for ship cargo, industry. Intermodal, trucking, rail ability to receive at all ports and ship, open 24/7. Over 100 million consumers throughout reach in south, Sw and Se region.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

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