Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.15.22

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Good Monday morning.

The Florida League of Cities announced its officers for the 2022-2023 term, including Port St. Lucie Vice Mayor Jolien Caraballo as its next president.

Caraballo was elected by FLC membership and will serve a one-year term. The organization, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary as the united voice for Florida’s municipal governments, also announced that Cooper City Mayor Greg Ross was elected first vice president and Cocoa Mayor Michael Blake was elected second vice president.

“It’s an honor to be with you today, not just to celebrate 100 years of Florida League of Cities’ accomplishments and successes but, to kick off the next 100 years of outstanding achievements,” Caraballo said after her election. “I am incredibly humbled to have your support and serve as your next President for the upcoming year.”

Caraballo was first elected to the Port St. Lucie Commission in 2016 and has served ever since. She is a member of the St. Lucie County Transportation Planning Organization, the Treasure Coast Regional League of Cities, and she serves on the Board of Directors for Graceway Village.

Congrats to the newly named 2022-2023 FLC leadership team.

Caraballo is a past President and current Director of the Port St. Lucie Historical Society, and she previously served on the Keep PSL Beautiful Committee. She has also been a member of several of the League’s committees including the FLC Executive Committee, FAST Committee, Advocacy Committee and Resolutions Committee.

In addition, Caraballo is a past Chair of FLC’s Land Use and Economic Development Committee and is a current member of the FLC Transportation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee. An active advocate at both the state and federal level, Caraballo has also received FLC’s Home Rule Hero Award multiple times.

Here are some other thoughts:

✳️ — Historically, the President’s party doesn’t do too well in Midterm elections, but 2022 could be an exception according to Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight. The site’s modeling picked up on a slight momentum shift toward Democrats a couple of weeks ago and now it seems like it’s no longer a foregone conclusion they’ll lose the U.S. House. At 20%, the odds aren’t great — but they are better than they were.

👂 — There’s an impending war between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, so why not listen to what a war correspondent has to say about the Governor? Florida native Dexter Filkins, who is best known for covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for The New York Times, gives his take in the latest episode of The Dishcast.

📺 — Democrats have found their pressure point for the Midterms: Abortion. Democratic candidates across the country are producing ads lambasting the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade and pinning a share of the blame on the Republicans they are running against.

😡 — When did American politics become so divisive? A new Pew Research Center report doesn’t directly answer the question, but it paints a clear picture of just how consistently and rapidly partisan disdain has grown over the past three decades. The graphs speak for themselves.

🔌 — The biggest difference between Democratic Primary rivals Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried may be how they would handle the shady dealings at Florida Power & Light, writes Jason Garcia. When Crist was Governor, he appointed a pro-consumer Public Service Commission that killed a massive rate increase. Fried, meanwhile, joined FPL in their fight to gut an energy-efficiency law.

🚨 — Intrigue, open garage doors, police body cameras, on-and-off romances and — trigger warning — detailed suicide plans. Jacob Ogles’ latest story on Florida’s 16th Congressional District dives headfirst into the weird world of Republican candidate Martin Hyde. Check it out on Florida Politics.

🗞 — Faith in journalism has cratered in recent years, but local news outlets have been spared the brunt of hate and “fake news” allegations, but that’s starting to change as more small newsrooms close and are replaced by algorithms. Turns out readers prefer to read news written by people, not robots. Who’d’ve thought?

🥸 — It’s time to say sayonara to Saul Goodman … er, Jimmy McGill … er, Gene Takovic … Whatever you want to call him, the last episode of “Better Call Saul” airs tonight and with it comes the end of the criminal lawyer’s epic journey over the past decade. Here are five big questions The AV Club has heading into the finale — warning, there be spoilers.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

Tweet, tweet:

@RexChapman: I’m not a smart person. No degree. I somehow was named an academic all-SEC while in college at Kentucky. I worshipped Herschel Walker as a teenager growing up watching the SEC. But I can definitively say that Herschel Walker is the dumbest human I’ve ever met. Ever.

@Jack_Petocz: DeSantis is embarking on a nationwide tour to speak at GOP rallies/campaign events across the country. Just in case it wasn’t clear enough, this man wants to be president.

@DavidPomerantz: 13 dark-money groups used by FPL’s consultants in the 2020 ghost candidate scandal are now being used to route $300K to Nikki Fried, who’s running against Charlie Crist in the Dem Primary for FL Governor.

@UMichVoter: can you imagine a Florida without Broward? It would be borderline Alabama

@SenPizzo: Today’s @WPLGLocal10 debate b/w @LeaderBookFL and @Barbarasharief Lauren spoke about legislative policy and issues in her @FLSenate district. Reading from notes, Barbara talked about Lauren’s 2009 wedding, filing a lawsuit against Lauren, and then logged off early.

Tweet, tweet:

@MarcACaputo: Twitter lawyers are now informing me there are NOT two sides to a legal case Therefore, if Defendant A is accused, s/he is guilty — even if there’s no formal indictment. And to report that Defendant A has a defense is bad journalism.

@ChristinaPushaw: Is your corporate media losing money and laying off journalists? I have a great idea: if you want to sell papers, REPORT THE NEWS your community cares about. No, we don’t need to pay for your opinions about January 6 or why kids should be double-masked. Liberal Twitter is free

— DAYS UNTIL —

FBHA’s annual conference, BHCon2022, begins — 2; FRLA’s Operations and Marketing Summit — 3; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 6; 2022 Florida Primary — 8; launch window opens for NASA to launch the Artemis I — 13; 2022 Florida Chamber Technology & Innovation Solution Summit — 16; ‘Andor’ premieres on Disney+ — 16; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 18; NFL Opening Night: LA Rams vs. Buffalo Bills — 24; 2022 Emmys — 27; JMI’s 2022 Tech & Innovation Summit begins — 31; final season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 31; vote-by-mail mailing deadline for General Election — 52; deadline to register for General Election — 56; 22-23 NHL season begins — 57; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 71; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 71; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 72; Early voting begins for General Election — 76; 2022 General Election — 85; ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ premieres — 88; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 88; FITCon 2022 begins — 94; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 94; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 98; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 98; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 99; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 107; ‘Willow’ premieres on Disney+ — 107; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 123; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 186; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 204; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 221; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies’ 23 conference begins — 246; 2023 Session Sine Die — 263; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 263; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 291; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 340; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 445; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 459; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 592; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 711; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 711; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 816; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 991.

— TOP STORIES —

DeSantis attends New Mexico rally” via Tamara Lopez of KOB 4 — DeSantis made the cross-country trip to New Mexico to show his support for Ronchetti in person. He did not hold back in criticizing Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, calling her state COVID policies “Draconian.”  “We are not going to allow vax mandates in the state of Florida, no Floridian should ever have to choose oh, heck no Americans should have to chose between a job they need and a shot they don’t want,” said DeSantis. … The Democratic Party of New Mexico responded Sunday night, saying DeSantis has a “radical right” agenda and that he does not represent New Mexico. The party chair calls the Florida governor’s views “extreme,” and criticizes his state’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. “By campaigning with DeSantis, Mark Ronchetti and Yvette Herrell have made it absolutely clear that they are aligning themselves with the radical right and will bring nightmare GOP policies right here to New Mexico,” said Jessica Velasquez, chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico.

—”DeSantis stumps for Donald Trump’s picks in Arizona” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Best of frenemies: DeSantis stalks Donald Trump with Republican Primary tour” via Adam Gabbatt of The Guardian — DeSantis, packs his suitcase for a five-day trip to campaign for Trump-endorsed candidates, he might afford himself a dastardly chuckle. Each of DeSantis’ destinations is a swing state, key to winning the 2024 Presidential election. There is a downside, however. DeSantis’ sojourn will put him on a collision course with the Republican Party’s most sensitive, volatile and powerful figure: Trump. With this tour, DeSantis’ tightrope is getting more and more rocky. Vanity Fair reported in July 2021 that Trump and DeSantis were on a “collision course.” DeSantis is just as extreme, perhaps more extreme, than Trump.

Is a clash of titans inevitable?

Could a 2024 White House bid affect DeSantis’ gubernatorial run? Strategists say it could” via Haley Chi-Sing of Fox News — DeSantis has been strategic in deflecting any 2024 Presidential talk as he endeavors in his gubernatorial re-election campaign in the Sunshine State. Despite efforts to mitigate any conversations about his unconfirmed presidential run, talk surrounding his potentially joining Trump as Vice President on the ticket or even running for President himself could sway votes in his home state this November. DeSantis has been treading carefully to ensure voters know Florida remains his top priority as Election Day draws closer.

—”DeSantis bemoans U.S. military not being more like ‘Top Gun Maverick’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

— 2022 —

—”DeSantis says he wants a Republican legislative supermajority” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

DeSantis will tour Florida to tout conservative school board candidates” via Zac Anderson of the USA Today Network — DeSantis is going on a statewide “education tour” in advance of the Aug. 23 Primary to tout candidates he endorsed in school board races. Combined, DeSantis’ actions are much further than past Florida Governors have gone to put their imprint on local politics. School board races are technically nonpartisan, but DeSantis is weighing in to try and elect conservatives. The races often are decided in the Primary. DeSantis is proving he is all in on trying to reshape Florida’s education system, which has been a major focus of his time in office. He signed controversial bills that limit how race, gender and sexual orientation are discussed in schools.

Ron DeSantis continues to stump for his endorsed candidates.

Charlie Crist, Nikki Fried unleash ground game as Democratic Primary for Governor nears finish” via John Kennedy of USA Today — History shows that fewer than one out of three registered Democrats are likely to cast ballots in the Aug. 23 contest, with early voting underway now in many Florida counties. But for the Crist and Fried camps, sluggish turnout in the dog days. The push into the campaign’s final days comes as a new poll commissioned by the Fried campaign shows her gaining on Crist, with 23% of Democratic Primary voters still undecided. The Public Policy Polling survey showed Fried trailing Crist by 7%. Although independent polling has been scant in the race, a survey by St. Pete Polls this month showed Crist with an overwhelming, 32% lead, although still with 20% of Democrats undecided. For Democrats, the ground game aimed at urging supporters to cast their votes remains pivotal to the finale of the yearlong, Fried-Crist matchup.

>>>First in Sunburn: Crist’s campaign announced it raised over $1 million in the first 11 days of August. That’s not DeSantis money, but Crist’s11-day haul comes as he broke campaign records last month with over $2.3 million raised from nearly 11,500 grassroots supporters.

Happening today — For the last week of the Primary, Crist continues his statewide “Hope for Florida” Tour in North Florida; 3 p.m., early voting event, Madison; 5 p.m., faith leaders council meeting, Tallahassee. Locations upon RSVP at [email protected].

Val Demings steps up fundraising as Marco Rubio continues slower pace” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Heading into August, Democratic Senate candidate U.S. Rep. Val Demings has accelerated fundraising, while U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign is showing signs of a slower pace in the money chase. Demings’ campaign reported raising $4.7 million in the 34-day period since the second quarter report. That pushed her total to more than $46 million. Rubio’s campaign posted a lax second quarter report, followed by a soft mid-summer effort, raising $1.9 million in the period between July 1 and Aug. 3. The latest report pushes his campaign’s total raised toward the General Election to just $38 million.

— 2022: CONG —

Rebekah Jones allowed back in Democratic congressional race while appeal continues” via Jim Little of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Jones is once again a candidate in the Democratic Primary for Florida’s 1st Congressional District after an appeals court put the order disqualifying her from the race on hold pending her appeal. On Friday evening, the Florida 1st District Court of Appeal granted Jones’ requested stay of the order that knocked her out of the race. The stay means notices informing voters that Jones was disqualified will not be posted at polling locations, and if the stay is in place on the night of Aug. 23, votes for her will be counted. The stay comes just as early voting is set to begin in most of the congressional district Saturday.

Aaron Bean CD 4 ad talks family, inflation” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — State Sen. Bean released a new ad this week for his Congressional campaign. Titled “Bean Sprouts,” the 30-second spot introduces the Bean sons to the district. The ad started its run Wednesday, with more than $4,500 spent so far. As of 9 a.m. Friday, the ad aired 24 times for more than 549,000 impressions of adults 35 years old and older, according to data collected by AdImpact. It’s had notably fewer views and airings than the political action committee-backed ad that dropped in the Jacksonville market for the 4th Congressional District the day before.

To watch the ad, please click on the image below:

Maxwell Frost congressional ad calls Alan Grayson ‘corrupt,’ and Randolph Bracy ‘compromised’” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — A recent flyer distributed by Democratic U.S. House candidate Frost slams Primary opponents Grayson and Bracy. The flyer criticizes former U.S. Rep. Grayson over the congressional investigation into his offshore hedge fund, and hits on Bracy over his past votes on environmental and other issues. Both opponents rebuked the attack ad, with Grayson calling it “desperate.” The flyer comes from a heated Democratic Primary race where candidates hope to succeed U.S. Rep. Val Demings, who is running for U.S. Senate.

Grayson ad says he can help ‘defeat inflation’ — Democratic former U.S. Rep. Grayson has launched a new ad in his campaign for Florida’s 10th Congressional District claiming he has a plan to “help Florida defeat inflation.” In the 30-second ad, which began airing Friday, Grayson says he combats rising costs by lowering tolls, ending the gas tax and the tax on Social Security, and making rent tax deductible. “Your vote is your power. If you want lower taxes, lower tolls and lower rent, then vote for someone who will make your life better,” he says.

Frost, Bracy, Grayson ramp up spending in CD 10 Democratic field” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Frost, Bracy and former Grayson are the only candidates in a field of 10 Democrats who are spending as if they’re contending for the Aug. 23 Primary Election in Florida’s 10th Congressional District. Frost, the contest’s dominant campaign fundraiser since he entered the race a year ago; Bracy, who led in the only publicly released poll; and Grayson, who represented much of the north Orange County region in the district when he was in Congress, each spent in six figures to promote their candidacies during in the pre-Primary period of July 1 to Aug. 3. The Rev. Terence Gray might be considered a fourth contender, as he managed to put out $56,000 for mailers and other advertising.

FEC warns Kelli Stargel-tied super PAC about failing to disclose spending” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A super PAC supporting Republican Stargel’s bid for Congress has not filed the proper campaign finance reports, according to the FEC, which could result in an audit or further enforcement action. The super PAC has reported a number of independent expenditures, including direct mail pieces paid for on Aug. 4 attacking opponents — state Rep. Jackie Toledo and former Secretary of State Laurel Lee. But, there may be mail pieces that were not properly reported to the FEC. The agency has given the super PAC until Sept. 1 to correct the reporting failure before the FEC considers if an audit action will be taken. Notably, that’s a week after the Aug. 23 Republican Primary in Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

Lauren Boebert backs Anna Paulina Luna, releases robocall” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Boebert is backing Luna in the Republican Primary for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, showing her support in a recently released robocall. In her robocall on behalf of Luna, Boebert slams the Air Force veteran’s opponent Kevin Hayslett, calling him a “RINO” and criticizing his work as a prosecutor. “Hayslett defends drug traffickers, drunk drivers, child abusers, women beaters, and illegal immigrants. That is not America first, that is not MAGA, that is not Trump.” In the call, she touts Luna as the only Trump-backed candidate, further cementing Luna’s ties to the former President.

To listen to the robocall, please click on the image below:

What Tampa Bay Republicans running for Congress are saying about the 2020 election” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — In the 2022 race for Tampa Bay’s congressional seats, few Republican candidates are willing to say with full-throated certainty that there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election. That follows the trend of the Republican Party: The majority of registered Republicans say they don’t believe Biden legitimately won the election. Some Tampa Bay GOP congressional candidates agree with that sentiment. Even candidates who affirm that there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election often couch their statement by saying there’s still a further need for election integrity.

—”Matt Gaetz maintains strong fundraising lead in CD 1” via Aimee Sachs of Florida Politics

—”Republicans spending nearly all they’ve got in CD 7 Primary” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

—“Alan Cohn outraising CD 15 field, but Eddie Geller is the top spender” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

—“Ken Russell leads pre-Primary spending spree in CD 27” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics

— 2022: LEG. —

James and Mariya Calkins show their true colors in Putin video” via Andy Marlette of Pensacola News Journal — In a recently resurfaced YouTube video from 2013, Commissioner James Calkins is seen at a holiday gathering in Russia, where the Commissioner sings the Russian national anthem while smiling. In the video, he is heard praising Putin, proclaiming, “I love Russia!” His wife, Mariya, is Russian, and is running to replace Jayer Williamson in the Florida House. The circulation of the video has challenged citizens of Santa Rosa County on where the pair’s loyalty lies — and as the video suggests, it’s with Putin.

To watch the video, please click on the image below:

Kiyan Michael, backed by DeSantis, finding traction in HD 16 race” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Headed into the homestretch of the campaign, Michael is finding traction with donors right on time for the Aug. 23 Republican Primary for the Duval County seat in the state House, after a campaign dominated by fundraising from her opponents. During the week ending Aug. 5, Michael reported raising $54,000 between her campaign account and the Friends of Kiyan Michael political committee. The Safety Net Hospital Alliance gave $1,000 to her campaign account, while other donors with statewide profiles gave even bigger sums to her committee account. Michael has a television ad spotlighting the DeSantis endorsement, one funded by a previous $50,000 donation from the Friends of Ron DeSantis political committee. She has roughly $110,000 on hand, but momentum is with her at a key time.

Roger Stone endorses candidate running in Palm Beach County state House race” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Trump-aligned political consultant Stone is endorsing Republican Jane Justice, who is trying to unseat two-term Republican Rep. Mike Caruso in the upcoming Primary. Justice, a real estate agent, says the endorsement comes at just the right time as she makes a bid to represent House District 87, which covers the north, coastal area of Palm Beach County, north of Mar-a-Lago. Stone called Justice “a solid conservative, a supporter of parental rights, a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.”

—”Jessica Baker continues to dominate fundraising race in HD 17” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

— 2022: D-BALLOT —

‘Warning sign for all people’: Collier School Board candidate faces backlash over campaign’s antisemitic worker” via Rachel Heimann Mercader of Naples Daily News — Collier School Board candidate Tim Moshier is attempting to distance himself from a campaign volunteer who claimed to be his campaign manager after revealing antisemitic posts. Katie Paige Richards, a Naples native and recent college graduate, saw backlash last week for her antisemitic posts and comments on TikTok in early August. In the video, she promotes an antisemitic conspiracy theory that Jews are trying to control the West by using porn. Moshier initially responded by saying he did not see a problem with the video and did not want to comment further on antisemitism. But, days later, he walked back his stance and said he “disavowed the antisemitic references,” adding that Richards was never his ‘campaign manager,’ or a paid employee.

Tim Moshier keeps his distance from an errant worker.

Controversial Flagler County Chair Joe Mullins faces Republican challenger in Primary” via Frank Fernandez of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Flagler County Commission Chair Joe Mullins is promoting himself as the candidate that can get things done — asking voters to turn a blind eye to a series of controversies that have plagued his tenure. Mullins faced scrutiny back in June after telling a trooper he “runs the county” in response to a speeding ticket — his second that month. He’s also fighting a federal lawsuit in Georgia accusing him of fraud for selling invalid badges to the Masters golf tournament. His Primary opponent, Republican Leann Pennington of Palm Coast, says Mullins is absent in his district that needs specialized attention, as a rural part of the county.

‘Baby killer’: Attack message on mobile billboard shows rancor in Sarasota School Board races” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A mobile billboard is boasting an attack-ad against Sarasota School Board candidate Lauren Kurnov, with the words “LIAR. AND A BABY KILLER” displayed next to a photo of Kurnov. The political ad alludes to Kurnov’s earlier employment with Planned Parenthood. But the use of the words baby killer in association with Kurnov, who is Jewish, evoked ties to historically antisemitic use of the term and prompted widespread condemnation, including from some Republicans and opponent Robyn Marinelli. The opposite side of the sign urged people to vote for the slate endorsed by the Sarasota Republican Party — incumbent Bridget Ziegler, retired Sarasota Schools Police Chief Tim Enos, and Marinelli, with the first letters of their last names highlighted in red to spell out “ZEM.”

Brian Martin wants to bring businessman’s POV to Pinellas School Board” via Daphne Taylor Street of Florida Politics — “I’m running for School Board because I have four kids in the district, and I want my kids to have the best possible opportunities for education. And not only my kids; I want the entire community to experience the best education that we can provide,” Martin said. “We also can’t forget that one of the most important roles of the Board members is managing a $1.6 billion budget. I’m running because I have experience engineering projects and in business management, and the qualities I have to be successful in those areas will make me a great asset on the School Board.”

Fort Lauderdale candidate’s campaign sign went missing. So he used a tracker to nab the bandit.” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A sign bandit got caught with a little help from an Apple AirTag tracking device. The tracker, hidden inside a campaign sign for Mike Lambrechts that disappeared from a front lawn in the Rio Vista neighborhood, put out a signal that led to a green Jeep parked outside the home of political rival Jacquelyn Scott. Ten minutes after the campaign worker pulled up to Scott’s home in Colee Hammock, Scott says Lambrechts showed up with the police in tow. Officers found the sign Thursday inside the campaign worker’s car, parked right in Scott’s driveway. No arrest was made but the officers had the woman give Lambrechts his sign back.

— STATEWIDE —

Latest insurance crisis was decades in the making” via Lawrence Mower and Alex Harris of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida’s crumbling homeowners insurance market is exposing one of the state’s long-running flaws: its reliance on a single company to certify the majority of the state’s insurers. For the last few weeks, state regulators and DeSantis’ administration have been scrambling to contain the fallout after the state’s primary ratings agency, Ohio-based Demotech Inc., warned of downgrades to roughly two dozen insurance companies. The downgrades would have triggered a meltdown of the state’s housing market, a pillar of Florida’s $1.2 trillion economy. Without the ratings, a million Floridians could be left scrambling to seek new insurance policies, possibly triggering a housing crisis in the middle of hurricane season and months before the November election.

Demotech warned insurers that the Florida insurance bubble was about to burst.

—“If more than two big storms hit Florida this year, insurers could be in trouble” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Between politics and poor pay, teachers are more strained than ever — and the numbers show it” via Somer Brugal and Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — The debate about how to approach inevitable classroom discussions about topics that have been deemed inappropriate by some parents and politicians underscores the heightened awareness teachers have ahead of a new school year — one that will see a slew of new state laws that limit what they can teach and give parents an elevated role in decision-making. In recent years, teachers have endured stagnant wages, skyrocketing living expenses in South Florida and a pandemic that placed them and their methods under a microscope. Personal reasons, relocation or accepting another job were among the top three reasons people cited for leaving.

COVID-19 wave continues to ebb in Florida” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — Hospitalizations, newly logged infections, testing positivity rates and viral levels in sewage are all falling, while newly recorded deaths, a lagging statistic, slowly rises. Hospitals statewide counted fewer COVID-19-positive patients Friday than seven days before, the first time since late March that has happened. Medical staff tended to 3,855 COVID-19 patients Friday, a 347-person drop over the past week, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department reported. The Florida Health Department on Friday logged an average of 59,959 new infections each week since its last biweekly report on July 29. That’s the smallest amount since May 20.

Fiery DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw leaves Governor’s Office to join his campaign” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis’ Press Secretary Pushaw is leaving her $126,456 a year state job to join DeSantis’ reelection campaign. On Twitter, Pushaw wrote, “Now, the gloves are off.” Her resignation is effective Friday. “It has been an honor to serve the people of Florida under the leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration,” Pushaw wrote. The communications office “gave me latitude to respond to media narratives in direct and often unconventional ways …” Pushaw wrote that Deputy Press Secretary Bryan Griffin would move into her role.

2 Florida Department of Law Enforcement appointments announced after staff shake-up” via Forrest Saunders of WPTV — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has welcomed two new appointments — Derek Miller will come on as the legislative affairs director and Matt Walsh will serve as Assistant Commissioner over public safety services. The pair come in as Chief of Staff Ron Draa and Assistant Commissioner Michelle Pyle depart. FDLE Acting Commissioner Mark Glass asked for the resignation of the two high-ranking FDLE officials but has not elaborated on details.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Joe Biden keeps South Carolina guessing” via Christopher Cadelago of POLITICO — Biden’s footing in South Carolina is a microcosm of his current political fortunes writ large. Democrats here say they are willing to give him time to turn things around for himself. They’re heartened by recent legislative progress. But in dozens of interviews with people around the state, including current and former leaders and many of Biden’s ardent 2020 supporters, it’s clear they are anxious about his future and not ruling out the idea that someone else could be the party’s standard-bearer in two years.

Is South Carolina a bellwether for Joe Biden? Image via AP.

Rubio plans social media push to fight China’s threat” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — In speeches, op-eds, and on his Twitter feed, Sen. Rubio has been doing his best to convey the great threat he sees in China’s aggression toward U.S. interests. Never mind that China might be the top supplier of goods to the United States and the country’s third-biggest customer for purchasing goods. Rubio is sounding the alarm and launching a new social media campaign to fight against what he calls the false narrative coming from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and expose its true ambitions. “Beijing is attempting to overpower, exploit, and hold hostage sovereign nations,” said Rubio.

Rick Scott questions why Biden won’t ‘demand transparency’ after FBI Mar-a-Lago search” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Scott returned to the Fox News Channel’s Ingraham Angle Friday night, blasting President Joe Biden for failing to “demand transparency” after the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago this week. “Think about this: Where is Biden? Why wouldn’t he demand? He’s going to be a former President someday. Why wouldn’t he sit there and demand transparency? This is unprecedented. A former President, a potential opponent to a sitting President with an administration, the Biden administration, who’s already targeted opponents like parents at School Board meetings,” Scott contended. “So, we’ve got to get to the bottom of this. We need to have a hearing. I’m on the Senate Homeland Security Committee. We need to have a hearing.”

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

In wake of Mar-a-Lago search, Republicans want Trump to start campaign now” via Stephany Matat and Zac Anderson of The Palm Beach Post — This week, Trump’s most ardent Republican supporters in Florida, and across the country, took to social media, network airwaves and podiums to tell Trump that now is the time to launch his presidential campaign. That goes against what had been a prevailing consensus. An early announcement, some national Republican leaders argued, would hijack midterm campaign messaging by placing the spotlight on Trump, and his 2020 election grievances, and distract from the economy and other issues and ultimately hurt the GOP’s chances of taking back the U.S. House and Senate in November.

Will Mar-a-Lago be the tipping point for Donald Trump in 2024? Image via AP.

Trump lawyer told Justice Dept. that classified material had been returned” via Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush of The New York Times — At least one lawyer for Trump signed a written statement in June asserting that all material marked as classified and held in boxes in a storage area at Mar-a-Lago had been returned to the government, four people with knowledge of the document said. The written declaration was made after a visit on June 3 to Mar-a-Lago by Jay I. Bratt, the top counterintelligence official in the Justice Department’s national security division. The existence of the signed declaration, which has not previously been reported, is a possible indication that Trump or his team were not fully forthcoming with federal investigators about the material.

“‘It worried people all the time’: How Trump’s handling of secret documents led to the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago search” via Marc Caputo, Peter Nicholas, Carol E. Lee and Vaughn Hillyard of NBC News — Trump’s style of handling White House documents has been described by people who worked for him as slapdash and ad hoc, contributing to the debacle he now faces. He was known to rip up records that aides would have to retrieve from trash cans or from the floor and tape back together, according to former aides and multiple reports. “It worried people all the time,” John Bolton, one of Trump’s former national security advisers, recalled in an interview. “Trump had a habit of grabbing intelligence documents,” said Bolton, who has been a sharp critic of the former president. “God knows what he did with it.”

Trump’s secrets: How a records dispute led the FBI to search Mar-a-Lago” via Josh Dawsey, Rosalind S. Helderman, Jacqueline Alemany and Devlin Barrett of The Washington Post — As FBI agents pulled up to Mar-a-Lago to conduct a search for top-secret government documents, Trump was by chance already huddled with his lawyers in Trump Tower in New York, a thousand miles to the north. They were supposed to be preparing Trump to be deposed later in the week in an entirely different matter, a civil probe of Trump’s family business. But the session was interrupted by a phone call informing the former president of the extraordinary events unfolding at his Mar-a-Lago Club, said Ron Fischetti, his New York attorney.

FBI attacker was prolific contributor to Trump’s Truth Social website” via Drew Harwell and Meryl Kornfield of The Washington Post — In the minutes after an armed man in body armor tried to breach an FBI field office in Cincinnati, an account with the suspect’s name, Ricky Shiffer, posted to Trump’s social network, Truth Social: “If you don’t hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the FBI.” Shiffer was killed Thursday in a shootout, police said, and the Truth Social account has since been taken down. But the calls for pro-Trump violence are still a common presence online, including on Truth Social, where the top “trending topics” Friday morning were “#FBIcorruption” and “DefundTheFBI.”

— JAN. 6 —

Some Capitol rioters try to profit from their Jan. 6 crimes” via Michael Kunzelman of The Associated Press — Facing prison time and dire personal consequences for storming the U.S. Capitol, some Jan. 6 defendants are trying to profit from their participation in the deadly riot, using it as a platform to drum up cash, promote business endeavors and boost social media profiles. A Nevada man jailed on riot charges asked his mother to contact publishers for a book he was writing about “the Capitol incident.” A rioter from Washington state helped his father hawk clothes and other merchandise bearing slogans such as “Our House” and images of the Capitol building. Those actions are sometimes complicating matters for defendants when they face judges at sentencing as prosecutors point to the profit-chasing activities in seeking tougher punishments.

— MORE LOCAL: S. FL —

Cuba won’t say it, but deadly oil-tank inferno ‘probably sabotage,’ ex-Miami-Dade fire chief says” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald — A dozen firefighters went missing at the site of the blaze, described as Cuba’s worst fire ever. The information released, that the fire started Friday, Aug. 5 when lightning struck a crude oil tank and spread to others, makes it a highly suspicious fire. “I don’t see a lightning strike having caused that fire,” said Abel Fernandez, a fire-suppression expert from Miami Lakes. “This was probably sabotage done internally.” Why does Fernandez suspect foul play? Crude oil has a high flash point of ignition. So does diesel fuel. They aren’t highly flammable, he said.

Ten migrant groups land over the weekend across Florida Keys, U.S. Border Patrol says” via David Goodhue and Omar Rodríguez Ortiz of the Miami Herald — It has been a hectic weekend in the Florida Keys for U. S. Border Patrol agents, who responded to multiple migrant landings through the island chain. As of Sunday afternoon, the largest landing was a group of 51 Cubans who arrived at the Southernmost Buoy in Key West earlier in the morning, said Adam Hoffner, division chief for U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Miami operations. The exact time of arrival wasn’t immediately known. Agents were also busy responding to at least nine other landings between Saturday and Sunday up throughout the archipelago, Border Patrol Chief Agent Walter N. Slosar said on Twitter.

Caribbean refugees keep streaming into Key West.

This Broward kindergarten teacher isn’t going to let ‘Don’t Say Gay’ change her lessons” via Jimena Tavel of Miami Herald — Denise Soufrine sneaked into her kindergarten classroom as soon as her principal allowed it, days before the calendar mandated last week’s return of teachers. She worked for days. For the past three years, Soufrine has undergone active shooting training. Then came the Florida Legislature’s wave of education bills passed in the spring, most notably House Bill 1557, which critics have assailed as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Said Soufrine about the new law: “It really doesn’t change my perspective at all.” She and her colleagues have never taught kids about gender studies, she said. And she has not mentioned the word “gay” to her students, either in classroom lessons or in discussing her sexual identity as a gay woman, she said.

‘I will not be discouraged.’ Coral Reef teacher is optimistic despite political rhetoric” via Nyree Washington for the Miami Herald — Twenty-five years ago, I entered what I perceived to be one of the most noble professions one could endeavor: education. I am asked what brings me the most disdain when I think of our profession, and I immediately think of the culture wars instigated by local, state, and national leaders. Despite this current state of our politics, I remain optimistic about the future of our profession and our incredible students. I aspire to help my students and colleagues see the beautiful diversity that exists in each and every one of us.

Appeals Court ruling leaves serious impacts for Marathon” via Timothy O’Hara of Keys News — A recent appeals court ruling is bringing a lot of anxiety to Marathon city leaders and some residents and developers, as the 52-unit affordable workforce housing project called Marty’s Place on 39th Street could face condemnation and the development of 248 additional workforce housing is now in jeopardy if the ruling is upheld. Earlier this month, the 3rd District Court of Appeal overruled an administrative law judge’s decision that found the cities of Islamorada and Marathon could each have 300 new state-issued building allocations called BPAS (Building Permit Allocation System) or ROGO (Rate of Growth Ordinance) units.

Appeals court nixes $17K sanction against Boca Raton law firm” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — A Boca Raton law firm won’t have to pay a $17,150 penalty after the 3rd District Court of Appeal overturned a lower court order assessing the sanction. The appellate court found the firm didn’t receive an evidentiary hearing beforehand. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Veronica Diaz ruled in January 2021 that Shir Law Group lawyers had brought a frivolous motion against individuals for allegedly violating a confidentiality order. She issued an official order in March 2021 requiring the firm to pay $17,150 to cover attorney fees for opposing counsel. The 3rd District reversed the ruling in a decision issued by a three-judge panel.

— MORE LOCAL: C. FL —

Armed gunman in FBI Cincinnati attack has ties to Tampa Bay” via Michaela Mulligan of The Associated Press — A gunman who died in a shootout after trying to breach the FBI’s Cincinnati office Thursday has ties to Tampa Bay and was registered to vote in Hillsborough County as recently as 2021. Ricky Walter Shiffer was armed with a nail gun and an AR-15-style rifle when he tried to breach the visitor screening area at the FBI office, authorities said. Shiffer fled when agents confronted him. A state trooper later spotted Shiffer along a highway and got into a gunbattle that ended with police killing Shiffer. Shiffer has lived at multiple Tampa Bay addresses over the years, starting in 2005.

All roads lead to Florida. Image via AP.

City employee suspended while Orlando officials investigate complaints from abortion clinic staff, volunteers” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — An Orlando city employee is being suspended with pay after complaints alleged that the employee used a city vehicle to block the driveway of a women’s health care center. The employee, who works within the city’s parking division, is being investigated. The complaints came from volunteers who work at the center, which provides abortion services, who said the employee harassed them after asking to move the car. The employee could face penalties via the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

After Jean-Michel Basquiat raid, Orlando museum faces crisis of credibility” via Brett Sokol of The New York Times — The Orlando Museum of Art no longer resembles the active crime scene it was in June, when agents from the FBI raided the museum and seized its marquee exhibition: 25 paintings attributed to Basquiat but whose authenticity was questioned in an F.B.I. affidavit that detailed a nine-year-long criminal investigation into the artworks. Now the museum is hoping to get beyond its role at the center of a headline-grabbing art scandal and is trying to reassure the public, the art world, local officials, donors and its own staff that it still has a culturally vital role to play in serving the community.

“Food pantry for Disney employees still fights hunger as donations fall” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — As inflation takes its toll on working families, Disney employees are also struggling to make ends meet. One nonprofit called Cast Member Pantry, although not affiliated with Disney, provides food to employees of the entertainment corporation. Even after the theme park raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour in October 202, the need has remained high. Despite this, donations have fallen at the pantry, which relies entirely on gifts. The nonprofit was founded in March 2020 to serve Disney employees furloughed or laid off because of the pandemic. It has yet to turn anyone away for lack of donations due to careful financing but is starting to run low. The organization is looking into applying for grants.

Lakeland Mayor Bill Mutz resigns from Lakeland Christian School board over LGBTQ proclamation” via Sara Megan Walsh of The Ledger — Lakeland Mayor Mutz has stepped down from Lakeland Christian School’s Board of Trustees after more than 20 years. He resigned at a July board meeting following a debate over the City of Lakeland recognizing June as LGBTQ Pride Month. Some trustees thought it was at odds with Lakeland Christian’s values. “My responsibility as Mayor is to serve all citizens of the city,” he said. “My role on the board has a Statement of Faith attached, personal values I ascribe to. I can do both, I don’t find conflict in that.”

Bill Mutz takes a stand against a Christian school’s Pride declaration. Image via Bay News 9.

Titusville sends right to clean water to ballot, despite warnings it could be illegal” via Tyler Vazquez of Florida Today — The Titusville City Council voted to allow the petition-driven “right to clean water” charter amendment to appear on the ballot in November. But the debate over a clean water ballot initiative in Titusville has some residents and the City Council at odds over the measure, the courts and the democratic process itself. Can the people by popular vote enact a law that may itself be illegal? Or do local elected officials have an obligation to prevent the legal fallout by preventing a vote in the first place? Those are points of conflict between those who gathered 4,000 signatures to place a referendum on the ballot and city officials who insist that such a move would never stand up in a court of law.

What John Lux is reading — “Lights, Camera, The Bay? Recent films bring millions into Tampa Bay” via Jada Williams of WFTS Tampa Bay — Although Florida has stopped offering filmmakers incentives to film in the state, Tampa Bay has continued to serve as a backdrop for several new films. Filmmakers have chosen this area as the setting for their films on Lifetime and Hallmark, with each of the films produced under a partnership with Visit St. Petersburg and St. Petersburg/ Clearwater Film Commission. Pinellas and Hillsborough counties offer a $10 cash back incentive to filmmakers when they spend money locally. The films have funneled millions of dollars into the community. In the last year, 11 films have been shot in Tampa Bay.

— MORE LOCAL: SW. FL —

Florida school board member boasts ‘woke’ teachers are ‘working from the inside‘” via Cortney O’Brien of Fox News — The Vice Chair of the Sarasota School Board, Tom Edwards, has come under fire from GOP leaders after saying at a conference that “woke” teachers are “working from the inside.” The video was originally shared by Florida GOP Vice Chair Christian Ziegler, and has garnered criticism from far-right groups like Moms for Liberty, who see it as a threat to parental rights. In an op-ed for the Herald-Tribune, Edwards argued that the Sarasota school board’s relationship with parents and the community is less antagonistic than suggested. Despite recent tense school board meetings, Edwards said the members do not have a “serious problem” with parents.

— MORE LOCAL: N. FLORIDA —

Two police review groups to discuss TPD’s recent training with ex-Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher” via Christopher Cann of the Tallahassee Democrat — Local police review boards are set to evaluate the Tallahassee Police Department’s policies after news broke that the department was training with ex-Navy SEAL Gallagher, who was once found guilty of illegally posing for a photo with the dead body of a minor. The nine‐member volunteer board will “discuss how it plans to move forward” during a Sept. 1 meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the Smith-Williams Center. According to the TPD, Gallagher observed and provided “input” about the training as an “observer,” and is not being compensated by the department.

Eddie Gallagher becomes a controversial trainer in Tallahassee.

Appeals court says Madison County Confederate statue can go, but will it stay?” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — The 1st District Court of Appeals recently ruled the City of Madison can remove a life-size sculpture of a uniformed Confederate soldier from a city park, if it wants to. But the ruling is not the end of the Madison monument story. Congressman Al Lawson applauded the court’s decision to remove what he calls “a constant reminder of the dark and oppressive history of slavery.” Meanwhile, the Madison City Manager said he does not know when or if work will begin to remove the statue now that the city has court approval.

— TOP OPINION —

The horror of people willing to die for Trump” via Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post — Suggest that his followers deserve better — whether that is an actual infrastructure package or a leader who appeals to their best qualities rather than their basest — and you’re accused of exhibiting the very contempt that made Trump attractive in the first place. Suggest Trump is scamming his followers, and you’re a tool of the deep state. According to Trump and his many enablers, there is no evidence that isn’t planted or manufactured, no moral act that is disqualifying, no act for which Trump himself can be held responsible. We should be concerned for the residents of Trumpland for their own safety. And if that’s not enough, we should care because the people who die for Donald Trump may someday take others with them.

— OPINIONS —

Trump sics the GOP on the FBI” via Maureen Dowd of The New York Times — Trump is an expert at projection. As Peter Baker wrote in The Times, “Throughout his four years in the White House, Mr. Trump tried to turn the nation’s law enforcement apparatus into an instrument of political power to carry out his wishes.” Now, he is accusing the FBI of being a political weapon for his successor. This egomaniac is desecrating our democracy, tearing the country apart for his own benefit. Even after so many years of this poisonous folly, I remain amazed that the Republicans viciously smeared by Trump on his way up, like Rubio, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, now back up his smears.

Scott’s ‘Gestapo’ rhetoric was way off base” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — Scott, representing a state with a large Jewish population that includes Holocaust survivors, ought to know better than to recklessly toss around Hitler references. But sometimes knee-jerk devotion to Trump beclouds a Republican’s political judgment, even sense of decency. “This should scare the living daylights out of American citizens,” Scott said of the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago. “The way our federal government has gone, it’s like what we have thought about the Gestapo and people like that — that they just go after people. What we thought about the Soviet Union. What we look at (in) Latin America. We have got to say to ourselves, ‘This cannot be our country.’”

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

Restaurant owner who has served Presidents gives back to Miami one plate at a time” via Michael Butler of the Miami Herald — Every morning, Overtown native Shirlene Ingraham wakes up at 4 a.m. to make biscuits from scratch at Jackson Soul Food II restaurant in Opa-locka. Ingraham has owned the Jackson Soul Food enterprise since 1990, after working in her family’s business since she was seven. The food has drawn many fans from the area and well beyond. The restaurants have served prominent politicians, such as Biden and former President Bill Clinton, as well as soul music legends like The O’Jays who stop in to dine every time they visit Miami. In December 2022, a third Jackson Soul Food will open in Miami International Airport.

Jackson Soul Food serves Opa-locka — the people and neighborhood. Image via Phillip Pessar/Flickr.

The ultimate campus move-in challenge: Rehoming the University of Florida’s iconic bat colony” via UF News Service — The University of Florida faces the unique challenge of relocating hundreds of thousands of campus residents: its beloved bat colony. The university is home to the world’s largest occupied bat houses, a trio of raised structures at the Field & Fork gardens across from Lake Alice on Museum Road. Together, two of these houses shelter an estimated 500,000 bats, possibly the biggest bat colony east of the Mississippi River. Crowds gather regularly to watch the twilight spectacle of bats streaming from the houses to hunt insects under the cover of darkness.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to our beloved friend, St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch, as well as Ann Duncan, Lane Stephens, and Courtney Whitney.

___

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

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