Good Sunday morning, and welcome back to “Brunch,” a pop-up newsletter about the 2022 campaign cycle in Florida.
The winners should be known in less than sixty hours. Here’s to all the field organizers and GOTV geniuses who are working ‘round the clock to turn out those final voters.
Brunch will be off for the next two weeks, returning to inboxes the Sunday after Labor Day.
Happy birthday to Rep. Kristen Arrington, Caitlin Fishman, Ryan Patmintra, and Bob Poe.
Be sure to check our selections for the Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida Politics. You can read that piece by clicking here.
Now, please enjoy Brunch.
— DNC drops new ad blitz —
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is out with a national, seven-figure ad buy looking to boost Democrats ahead of this November’s election.
— Florida focus: Part of that campaign with feature ads targeted to Florida, including a hit in Spanish-language media. The spots will tout work done by President Joe Biden and Democrats to “to lower costs for the American people,” according to the DNC.
— Inflation situation: Prices have risen sharply this year, though that surge has cooled recently, and Democrats are hoping to pounce with the pitch to voters. The campaign spotlights Democrats passing the Inflation Reduction Act — which features provisions on green energy, changes to the tax code, health care and other areas, but which experts largely agree won’t immediately impact inflation. Polls have, however, started to turn in Democrats’ favor in recent weeks.
— Winning? “President Biden and Democrats have delivered win after win for the people of Florida,” said DNC Chair Jaime Harrison. “While Democrats are lowering costs for working families and demonstrating that government can work for them, Republicans continue to try to stand in the way and are pursuing an extreme MAGA agenda that costs working families. We’re proud to take our message directly to Floridians and remind them that thanks to President Biden and Democrats, powerful special interests lost, and Americans won.”
— DeSantis in Penn —
Ron DeSantis made a pit-stop in Pennsylvania Friday to announce his endorsement of GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano — and potentially scope out 2024 prospects.
— Spotlight: Mastriano addressed the crowd for about 15 minutes, followed by about a 42-minute speech from DeSantis, who focused his speech on his own record in Florida.
— WOKE: In his speech, DeSantis hammered “woke” culture.
— Winston Churchill? DeSantis channeled his inner Churchill during his speech, saying “We must fight the ‘woke’ in our schools. We must fight the ‘woke’ in our businesses. We must fight the ‘woke’ in government agencies. We can never, ever surrender to ‘woke’ ideology.”
— School Board blitz —
Gov. DeSantis may not appear on any Primary ballot, but he’s campaigning ahead of Aug. 23 anyway. He will focus on electing the dozens of School Boards he endorsed ahead of nonpartisan elections.
— Touring the state: DeSantis kicked off his races in some places where he lost the vote in 2018, including Miami-Dade and Duval counties. But he will also make stops in friendlier territory like Volusia and Seminole.
— Curriculum control: The move comes as DeSantis stresses a number of education bills including a controversial parental rights law dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. He also will promote his Stop WOKE Act and reviews of instructional materials.
— Endorsement effect: The tour also comes ahead of the test of the strength of DeSantis’ endorsements in the broad voter pool. While beloved by Republicans, Democrats and no-party voters take part in all School Board races.
— Fried adds $1M —
Nikki Fried’s campaign has announced raising $1 million in August, numbers released just days ahead of the August Primary.
— Funding follow-up: The fundraising follows her largest haul of $1.1 million near the end of July.
— Competition: Fried’s opponent, Crist, also raised another $1 million in August. That’s on the heels of raising $2.3 million in July.
— “Nikki Wave”: While some say Fried’s momentum has slowed leading up to the Primary, members of her campaign disagree. “Momentum is something we’ve been feeling on the ground for months, it’s now showing up in the polls and it continues to appear in our fundraising,” said deputy campaign manager and finance director Marissa Tully. “This Nikki Wave is going to propel us to a win Tuesday, and into the largest upset this election season, when we defeat DeSantis in November.”
Fried will finish early voting in South Florida with a day of action on Sunday, including visits to voting locations, local churches, and King’s Point Senior Center, ending the day with a Dave Matthews Band tailgate: 11:40 a.m., The Worldwide Christian Center Church, 450 North Powerline Rd., Pompano Beach; 1:30 p.m., Kings Point Delray Beach, 6570 Monaco Blvd., Delray Beach; 3:40 p.m., Congressional Black Caucus get out the vote, 1267 NW 40th Ave., Lauderhill; 4:10 p.m., African American Research Library, 2650 Sistrunk Blvd (NW 6th St.) Ft. Lauderdale; 6 p.m., Dave Matthews Band tailgate, 601-7 Sansburys Way, West Palm Beach.
— Crist to attend Souls to the Polls Sunday —
— What: Crist will join local supporters Sunday for Souls to the Polls events across South Florida.
— When: The Democratic candidate will start with Miami-Dade Souls to the Polls at 1:15 p.m., and then will join Broward residents for their Souls to the Polls event in Fort Lauderdale at 2:30 p.m.
— Tour wrap-up: Sunday’s activities will be part of Crist’s “Hope for Florida” tour that has taken him across the state as a final push before the Democratic Primary on Aug. 23.
— Lee rising —
The latest surveyfrom St. Pete Polls signals a big victory this Tuesday for former Secretary of State Laurel Lee in Florida’s 15th Congressional District.
— Broad favorite: About 47% of likely Republican Primary voters favor Lee, compared to 20% for state Sen. Kelli Stargel, 8% for veteran Mac McGovern, 7% for veteran Demetries Grimes and 5% for state Rep. Jackie Toledo.
— Toledo torpedoed? The big news may be the startling drop for Toledo, who in the last poll from the outfit received 11% of the vote and has been one of the top fundraisers.
— Ballot share: A look at those voters who already cast ballots finds even better results for Lee, the favorite of more than 52% of those whose decision has already been set.
— Don Jr. joins Gaetz —
Donald Trump Jr. is visiting the Panhandle Monday, appearing at a campaign event for U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who faces a GOP Primary challenge Tuesday.
— “Liberty Tour”: The so-called “Liberty Tour” features two stops Monday. The first will feature Trump Jr. in Pensacola, and the second will see U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky appear with Gaetz in Fort Walton Beach.
— Pensacola: The Monday, Aug. 22 event begins at noon Central time at the Amos Studio at Pensacola State College. That’s located at 1000 College Boulevard
— Fort Walton Beach: The Wyndham Garden Hotel will host the later event, scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Central time. The hotel is found at 573 Santa Rosa Boulevard. Both events are free and open to the public.
The push comes just one day before voters will head to the polls to decide whether to back Gaetz or replace him as the GOP nominee with Marine Corps veteran Mark Lombardo. Lombardo is already out with an ad needling Gaetz over the Trump Jr. appearance.
— Licky boom down —
Despite Gaetz spending years touting his connections with former President Donald Trump, GOP Primary Opponent Mark Lombardo continues to hit him for a reason the Mar-a-Lago resident could be miffed at the Fort Walton Beach incumbent.
— Informer: In a new ad titled “The Informant Part II” Lombardo asks questions implying Gaetz tipped off the FBI and spurred a recent raid of Trump’s Florida home. “Did Gaetz cut a deal?” the ad questions. And yes, this is round two of this innuendo.
— Pushing Junior: While Donald Trump, Jr., the ex-President’s son, will campaign with Gaetz on Aug. 22, Lombardo implies there may be more reason for a visit than the Primary. “Is President Donald Trump sending him to get the answers everyone wants?”
— Police, they come?: The ad also brings up headlines that plagued Gaetz last year about a potential human trafficking investigation involving a teenage sugar baby and a trip to the Bahamas. Regardless of why less news trickled on charges than some expected, the new ads also remind the Panhandle’s conservative voters that their allegations exist.
To watch the ad, click on the image below:
— Feeling the Bern —
Congressional candidate Maxwell Alejandro Frost tallied a significant progressive endorsement courtesy of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
— Left field: As Front seeks the Democratic nomination to succeed U.S. Rep. Val Demings, he’s attracted thumbs-up from other progressive superstars, including Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren to Rainbow Coalition Founder Jesse Jackson.
— March credentials: Sanders cited Frost’s background as a March 4 Our Lives activist. “The movement that he started has inspired millions of working people across this country, and right here in Florida, to demand a government that works for all of us, not just the wealthy and well-connected,” the Senator said.
— Age before beauty: The 80-year-old Senator may have a reputation as liberal America’s favorite grandpa. But Front would be the first Gen-Z member of Congress at age 25.
— TV buys —
Here’s the final volley of ads. For the Primary Election at least. Ad buys slowed down significantly this week as campaigns anted up the last of their TV and radio budgets ahead of Tuesday’s election. Still, many ad buys made in prior weeks stretched through Tuesday. Here’s a rundown of whose ads you’ll be seeing as you click through the channels this week:
— Governor: Fried’s campaign put $14K into broadcast ads in the Panama City and Gainesville media markets for ads that began airing Saturday and continue through Monday. Her political committee, Florida Consumers First, spent $29K on broadcast ads in the Orlando and West Palm Beach markets and $29K for cable ads in the Miami market for ads airing through Monday. On the Republican side, the Republican Party of Florida 3 PAC for DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and CFO Jimmy Patronis has added $7K to its statewide broadcast buy. It now totals $1.95 million across eight media markets.
— CD 1: Democratic candidate Rebekah Jones made a $4K cable buy in the Mobile media market. Her flight covers ads that will air on CNN, ESPN and MSNBC Tuesday through Friday in the Panhandle District.
— CD 7: Political committee Fight to Win America PAC has spent $14K on broadcast ads that began airing Saturday and will continue through Monday in the Orlando market. FEC disclosures show the ads are backing Brady Duke, who is one of several Republicans running to flip the Seminole- and Volusia-based district. Meanwhile, fellow Republican Cory Mills spent $93K on broadcast and cable ads in the Orlando market. Recent polling showed him narrowly leading the packed GOP field.
— CD 10: Democratic former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson spent another $5K on broadcast ads in the Orlando market. His flight began Friday and runs through Primary Election Day. Grayson is one of several Democrats running for the seat currently held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings.
— CD 22: Republican Dan Franzese spent $13K in the West Palm Beach market for radio ads running through the end of the Primary Election. The ads will air on news and classic rock radio stations. Franzese is one of five Republicans challenging incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel. Additionally, Florida Leadership PAC spent $3,000 for ads on country radio stations. The committee is backing Rod Dorilas for the Republican nomination.
— New comms lead at Vote Run Lead —
Cheryl Renée Waide is taking over as the new chief communications officer at Vote Run Lead (VRL), a national nonprofit organization aiming to increase women in elected leadership.
— First ever: The position is a new role at VRL. Waide will aim to build the brand and expand the group’s reach. Waide will work from South Florida.
— Significant CV: According to a VRL release. Waide has worked for more than two decades in “earned media strategy development, rapid response messaging, crisis public relations, government affairs, issue management, branding, project, and staff management.” She previously led the comms team at Florida Rising.
— “Empower another generation”: “Cheryl brings depth in combining social change politics and broader popular culture to create real change,” said VRL CEO Erin Vilardi. “She will lead VRL into our next phase by powering our political voice and expanding our reach to serve every woman ready to run. Her leadership will help empower another generation of women and I am thrilled to work side by side with her.”
— Relishing the role: “History teaches us that women in public leadership roles can change the way the world works,” Waide said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to help shift the narrative to educate and empower women on how to run for office to ensure that reflective and equitable gender parity in local, state and federal elected leadership is achieved in our lifetime and not decades in the future. Our communities can’t wait any longer for real, structural change.”
— Spectrum specials —
Spectrum News has helped viewers prepare for Election Day, with a slate of informative programming airing last week. That effort will continue Monday, before Spectrum’s live Election Night coverage Tuesday evening.
— Primary prep: On Monday, Spectrum News 13 and Spectrum Bay News 9 will air hour-long election specials starting at 7 p.m. Ybeth Bruzual, Tammie Fields and Greg Angel will host on News 13, while Holly Gregory, Roy de Jesus and Rick Elmhorst will oversee coverage on Spectrum Bay News 9.
— Double dose: Both networks will be back Tuesday to offer up-to-the-minute coverage of federal, state and local races, including live reports from several candidates’ campaign headquarters and watch parties.
— Partisan pundits: Democrat Wes Hodge and Republican Eddie Fernandez will join the Spectrum News 13 team Tuesday. Republican April Schiff and Democrat Reggie Cardozo will appear as analysts on Spectrum Bay News 9.
— Editorial endorsement roundup —
By the time you read this, Florida’s Primary will be less than two days away, and every county is currently offering early voting. Before you cast a ballot (if you haven’t done so already), here are some of the state’s major newspaper endorsements — ‘recommendations’ in a few cases — as a guidepost to choosing the candidate or issue who will best stand for you and the community.
— And no matter what, please vote:
— Campaign coverage roundup —
One of the most important things Americans can do is vote. As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility — and that means information. In the case of Florida’s Primary elections, even a little knowledge can go a long way. To help you learn more about the candidates and issues on Tuesday’s Primary ballot, here is a handy voter guide of Florida newspapers, and a taste of their election coverage and editorials. Use as little or as much as you want, but before you pull that lever (push the button or slip a ballot in a drop box), please take a few moments to get familiar with what is at stake.
— And despite where you fall on the political spectrum — make yourself heard. Vote!
— Keep crabbin’ —
Blue crab trap closures are being waived in Northeast Florida by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), after FWC previously announced its biannual blue crab trap fishery closure for Aug. 20-29, which was to allow for agency staff and volunteers to clear the area of abandoned traps.
— The good news: Removal of traps is a regular, necessary procedure because lost and abandoned traps “are a problem in the blue crab fishery because they can continue to trap crabs and fish when left in the water,” according to FWC. “They can also be unsightly in the marine environment, damage sensitive habitats and pose navigational hazards to boaters on the water.” Fewer traps to remove is good for people and marine creatures.
— Success elsewhere: It’s not just the counties from the St. Marys River south to Volusia County — South Florida’s blue crab trap closure was shorter this year than it could’ve been otherwise. Waters off Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach counties reopened to trapping Aug. 14, ahead of the usual reopening on Aug. 20. Northeast Florida crabbers can keep at it this month. Image via Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
— 2024’s problem: That’s it for blue crab trap closures on Florida’s Atlantic coast for the near future. They’re set for even-numbered years. The next blue crab trap closures will be in 2024, Jan. 16-25 on the St. Johns River, Aug. 10-19 in South Florida and Aug. 20-29 in Northeast Florida.
— Still running up the score —
As the head coach of the Florida Gators and later at South Carolina, Steve Spurrier could dish it up on the football field. It turns out that’s not the only place where the erstwhile Head Ball Coach scores big.
— Cooking things up: Spurrier is a mighty contributor to the valuable service industry in Florida. His Gainesville restaurant — Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille — just marked its anniversary. And as Orlando Sentinel sports columnist Mike Bianchi noted, Spurrier is running up the score in the restaurant biz the way he used to while coaching the Florida Gators. Bianchi noted that when he visited the restaurant on the anniversary, “it was the same as it’s been every time I’ve been in the place: absolutely packed.”
— Going on offense: As you might expect, Spurrier attacked the opening of his restaurant with the same go-for-broke style he used to dominate the University of Georgia and other SEC opponents. “It seems to me that in the restaurant business, your best defense is a great space. And your best offense is great food,” he says on the Grille’s website.
— Gator bait —
Spurrier’s business partner, Freddie Wehbe, said the Grille is now the 5th-busiest restaurant in Florida. Guests bought 311,696 dinners, 128,962 cocktails, 38,644 bottles of wine. and 57,788 beers.
— Hot spot: Also, at a time when many restaurants have staffing problems, Wehbe said he receives 100 applications per day. “There’s a reason Nick Saban is playing for the national championship every other year,” Spurrier said. “He recruits the best ballplayers. Well, we have recruited a great staff and have great management.” The secret to that? Workers there are paid well.
— Serve it up: “I can be a lot of things. Bold, brash, and colorful just to name a few. But ordinary has never been one of them,” Spurrier said. The menu reflects that. Diners can start with an HBC Margarita for $13. Try an appetizer of Orange and Blue Shrimp ($19), Tailgate Chili ($9), or Truffle Short Rib Crostinis ($14). For the main course, there’s a wide assortment of meats, poultry, pasta, or just go full-tilt southern with shrimp and grits. Either way, plan to loosen your belt a little.
— Brunching Out —
Blu Halo, considered one of our premier fine dining restaurants in Tallahassee, is also one of the best places in the Capital City to have brunch on the weekend. It’s the whole package.
— Backstory: Keith Paniucki, a Tallahassee native, opened Blu Halo nearly six years ago, aiming to raise the bar for dining and drinking destinations in the area. You could say that Paniucki, who also owns Hangar 38 and Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, has done just that.
— Setting: Tallahassee designer Catherine D. Baker has created the space, which has a whimsical but elegant look. Over the bar, there’s the restaurant’s namesake neon ring.
— Service: Exemplary. Our server kept our meal well-paced, was helpful and offered the type of attention you’d get at dinner.
— The menu: For brunch, you can savor delicious food, top-notch service and a stylish setting without paying exorbitant prices. Our choices were $14 and $15, with the most expensive item on the menu, the chimichurri steak (rib-eye) and eggs at $25. Our Country eggs Benedict was an excellent rendition with a patty of Bradley’s sausage and perfectly poached eggs smothered in white pepper gravy atop a fluffy buttermilk biscuit, served with breakfast potatoes. These cubed potatoes or home fries, are usually an afterthought at most restaurants. These were probably the best I’ve had — crunchy, golden-brown exterior with a tender interior. They were so good I ordered an a la carte side as well. Our fried chicken and waffles brought several pieces of flavorful and crisp buttermilk-brined chicken breast atop a vanilla bean waffle with separate servings of a maple bacon bourbon glaze, country gravy and regular maple syrup.
— Beverages: We picked a bloody mary, which was excellent, with a colorful garnish and a summery Watermelon Agua Fresca with agave nectar, lime and sparkling wine. Other options are mimosas (orange, grapefruit, cranberry, mango, pineapple or guava), Bellini and grapefruit sour.
— Details: Blu Halo, Bannerman Crossings, 3431 Bannerman Road, #2; 850-999-1696. Hours: 5 to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.