Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.31.22

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Good Wednesday morning.

Another poll of the U.S. Senate race shows little daylight between U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and his Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Val Demings.

The Impact Research poll found Rubio would get 49% of the vote to Demings’ 46% if the election were today. The three-point gap falls within the poll’s margin of error, which is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Demings’ competitiveness is built, in part, on strong support from independents. The poll found she holds a 13-point lead over Rubio among third- and no-party voters, 50%-37%.

The race has tightened, leaving little daylight between Val Demings and Marco Rubio.

With more than a decade in statewide office, Rubio does hold a significant advantage in name ID — about 94% of those polled said they had heard of him.

However, Demings has started to catch up after spending millions on TV ads over the past few months. About two-thirds of those polled said they had heard of the third-term Congresswoman.

The polling memo asserts that Demings’ name ID has “a lot of room to grow as more voters tune into the race and Demings continues to hold an advantage in TV ads.”

She has indeed spent far more on TV ads than the incumbent — ad buy data shows her campaign has spent around $15 million cycle-to-date. On its own, Rubio’s campaign has spent about $3.25 million, but including ad buys from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a handful of GOP-aligned PACs brings the spend to about $9 million.

The Impact Research poll was commissioned by the Democratic Governors Association and was conducted Aug. 12-18 and has a sample size of 800 likely General Election voters.

—”Marco Rubio slammed after saying he paid off student loans by writing book” via Fatma Khaled of Newsweek

Pro-Rubio PAC books $696K into broadcast ads — A political committee known as Stand Up To China has spent another $695,670 on broadcast ads in the U.S. Senate race. The committee has previously aired ads attacking Democratic candidate Demings by trying to tie her to the Joe Biden administration’s record on China. According to AdImpact, the new buy covers ads that began airing Aug. 25 and will continue through Sept. 9 in the Orlando and Miami media markets.

___

Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a stop in Live Oak that some county Supervisors of Elections “just don’t care about election laws” and are encouraging felons to register and vote.

His message received some pushback, with Steve Bousquet claiming that the Governor doesn’t have any proof that’s happening.

Well, he kind of does.

During the same stop, the Governor mentioned the time that the Alachua Supervisor of Elections office sent staff to the county jail to help prisoners get registered to vote.

The house call resulted in 10 people who were registered eventually being charged with voting illegally.

On felons voting illegally, Ron DeSantis may have a point.

One might note that many people in jail are convicted of misdemeanors and not felonies, and therefore they still have the right to vote. And one would be correct.

But many inmates that were registered were, in fact, ineligible to vote because they had not fulfilled all the requirements under Amendment 4. And FDLE noted that the visit “deviated from the typical jail procedures” related to voting education.

Sure, you can blame part of that on the vagaries of the implementing bill, but that doesn’t mean the Supervisor of Elections office did their due diligence. In fact, it proves the Governor’s point — they didn’t care enough about the law to take the time to understand it and correctly explain it.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RepBrianMast: To me, serving in Afghanistan was worth it. For 20 years, we gave our enemies a beating. The withdrawal and situation on the ground today is a slap in the face, but was failure of leadership, not a failure of those on the ground.

@BryanDGriffin: If you get your news from the @nytimes, you’d get a Times reporter interviewing a different Times reporter about FL being a ‘right-wing laboratory’ because *checks notes* you can’t talk to young kids about sex in school and people made their own health decisions during COVID.

@MDixon55: .@GovRonDeSantis said he will be rolling out his tax package for the 2022 legislative session in next few weeks Governor’s budget and associated tax cuts are generally something rolled out just before Session begins, which next year is March

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 2; NFL Opening Night: LA Rams vs. Buffalo Bills — 9; 2022 Emmys — 11; JMI’s 2022 Tech & Innovation Summit begins — 15; final season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 15; ‘Andor’ premieres on Disney+ — 21; vote-by-mail mailing deadline for General Election — 36; deadline to register for General Election — 40; 22-23 NHL season begins — 41; ‘Before You Vote’ TV debates (Senate) — 48; ‘Before You Vote’ TV debates (Governor) — 50; Taylor Swift’s ‘Midnights’ release — 51; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 55; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 55; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 56; Early voting begins for General Election — 60; 2022 General Election — 69; ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ premieres — 72; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 72; FITCon 2022 begins — 78; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 78; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 82; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 82; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 83; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 91; ‘Willow’ premieres on Disney+ — 91; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 107; Bruce Springsteen launches his 2023 tour in Tampa — 154; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 170; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 188; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 205; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies’ 23 conference begins — 230; 2023 Session Sine Die — 247; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 247; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 275; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 324; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 429; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 443; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 576; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 695; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 695; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 800; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 975.

— TOP STORY —

Ron DeSantis controls $130M+ to Charlie Crist’s $1.6M as General Election season kicks off” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — DeSantis, who faced no Primary challengers, held more than $10 million in the bank for his candidate account and controlled another nearly $120 million with a committee.

The Governor spent substantially leading into the August Primary, despite not having his name on the ballot, plunking down more than $8 million in August as he campaigned for endorsed School Board candidates. He slowed down expenses in the final week before the Primary, but only after sending a variety of mailers in counties around Florida.

The money race is a little lopsided.

But that level of expenditure barely cut into the resources he built up over the past two years as his national profile grew. As the last reporting period closed Aug. 19, he held $10,096,909 in cash-on-hand in his candidate account alone.

As for Crist, he engaged in an expensive Democratic Primary. That included spending more than $2.6 million just in August leading into the Primary from his candidate account. That account had $914,816 as of Aug. 19.

Friends of Ron DeSantis collected $854,861 just in the week of Aug. 20 to 25. And while the committee spent more than $3.3 million over the same time, that still left the committee with 119,989,100 in cash.

— DESANTIS V. CRIST —

DeSantis allegation about Crist running mate called ‘a lie’” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — Crist’s running mate Karla Hernández-Mats should be disqualified from running for office, DeSantis said Tuesday, after alleging the Miami teacher’s union chief protected a middle school teacher convicted of sexually abusing several students for years. The Crist camp called it “a lie.” “They had their top henchman … sexually abusing children for years and years,” DeSantis said at the end of a news conference in Fort Pierce to award a job training grant. “But they cared more about the power of their union than they did about the best interests of these kids. That is disgraceful. … I think that’s disqualifying to be in any political office much less than Governor of the state of Florida.”

Ron DeSantis accuses Karla Hernández-Mats; Charlie Crist says he is lying.

—“Is there a link between Crist’s running mate and website accused of doxxing parents?” via Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón of El American

DeSantis defends voter fraud prosecutions amid increasing criticism” via Zac Anderson of Florida Today — DeSantis is defending voter fraud charges brought by his administration that have drawn increasing criticism, including from the Republican lawmaker who drafted legislation at the center of the debate. DeSantis held a news conference Aug. 18 to announce that 20 felons who were ineligible to vote were being charged with fraud. The felons committed offenses, murder or sex crimes, which preclude them from automatically having their voting rights restored under a 2018 amendment to the state constitution. The 20 felons cast ballots in 2020 anyway, prompting the DeSantis administration to charge them with third-degree felonies.

DeSantis denies he’s ‘considering a run for the presidency’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — During a news conference Tuesday, a friendly questioner asked about the Governor “considering a run for the presidency,” spurring DeSantis to push back as he has in the past. “I think that’s the media just speculating,” DeSantis said. “I don’t think I’m doing. I mean, I’ve got a lot on my plate here, and we’re doing a lot of stuff, so I would not indulge in some of the stuff and be very careful about what you hear.” He has been consistently coy when asked about 2024 “nonsense” for months, dodging the topic at in-state news conferences and in friendly Fox News interviews alike. However, recent polling suggests that DeSantis is gaining at Donald Trump’s expense.

— 2022 —

“Ashley Moody overwhelmingly backed by law enforcement groups for re-election” via Jordan Kirkland of The Capitolist — Moody’s campaign announced on Tuesday that the Florida Fraternal Order of Police (FFOP), Florida Police Benevolent Association (FPBA), and Florida Police Chiefs Association (FPCA) have endorsed her candidacy. The support from the police trio comes one week after Moody earned endorsements from 64 of Florida’s 66 elected Sheriffs. “The Florida Fraternal Order of Police have firsthand knowledge of the dedication and leadership shown by Ashley Moody, and we are proud to endorse her to continue the hard work that she has begun in Florida as its Attorney General,” said Florida Fraternal Order of Police President Bobby Jenkins.

More blue is backing Ashley Moody.

How did Vern Buchanan crush a Primary challenge from Martin Hyde?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — It wasn’t long ago a Primary challenge from a conservative activist posed an existential threat to U.S. Rep. Buchanan. The Longboat Key Republican had faced pressure from the right before, but this was the MAGA era, and Hyde had a list of reasons to paint the incumbent as insufficiently pro-Trump. Yet a week ago, Buchanan emerged from a Republican Primary not just with another term in the House all but secure but buoyed by the best margin of victory achieved by any Republican in Florida on Primary Day. A series of positive events for Buchanan — and some unpredictable consequences for predictable behavior on the part of Hyde — produced a landslide.

Second Corey Simon ad drafts SD 3 hopeful ‘on our team,’ not ‘power or privilege’” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Simon makes his case for a leader not “born into power or privilege” in his latest ad for the Florida Senate. Simon, a Tallahassee Republican and former football star who is going head-to-head with Democratic Sen. Loranne Ausley in November, is banking on the strength of his childhood background and careers with Florida State University and the National Football League to defend or strengthen the GOP majority line. “He grew up in a tough neighborhood with a loving mom, a little hope, and a talent for football,” the ad begins. “Then he played for Bobby Bowden, he played in the NFL, and he learned you don’t win championships alone. You win them as a team.”

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

Daniella Levine Cava endorses Janelle Perez for SD 38 — Miami-Dade Mayor Levine Cava is endorsing Perez in the race for Senate District 38. “Janelle Perez is someone who truly loves Miami Dade. She is a product of our community and has brought to life a vision of entrepreneurship to her family-owned health care business,” Levine Cava said. “As a cancer survivor, Janelle is a fierce champion for expanding access to affordable and quality care, and as a mom and wife, she is ready to fight for a brighter future for Miami-Dade and the state of Florida. I am proud to endorse Janelle Perez for state senate.” Perez, a Democrat, faces Republican Alexis Calatayud in the General Election for the seat, which covers several coastal municipalities in Miami-Dade County.

Jen McDonald enters General Election with $120K advantage against Karen Gonzalez Pittman” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Democratic candidate McDonald will enter the General Election cycle with a $120,000 cash-on-hand advantage against Republican opponent Gonzalez Pittman as the pair compete for House District 65. McDonald, who did not face a Primary challenger, started the General Election cycle with $136,327 in her pocket. McDonald’s funding comes between her campaign account and affiliated political committee, Bright Future Tampa Bay. Gonzalez Pittman, meanwhile, entered the cycle with only $12,493 cash on hand after a competitive Primary. In the week leading up to the Aug. 23 Primary Election, Gonzalez Pittman spent $116,505.

Rhonda Rebman Lopez ‘skeptical’ of HD 120 Primary outcome, weighing lawsuit over attack ad ‘slander’” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Key Largo businessperson and two-time House District 120 candidate Lopez fell just short of unseating incumbent Rep. Jim Mooney last Tuesday. Now, she’s thinking of suing over “slander” in an attack ad that ran on TV ahead of Primary Election Day. The ad in question, paid for by the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee, debuted in late July. It described Lopez as a “RINO” (Republican in name only) and cited several Florida Politics stories linking anti-Mooney ads that aired in HD 120 to the political committee of disgraced former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Lopez already pushed back on accusations she and Gillum are in cahoots, touting her GOP bona fides and asserting she has never met him.

Happening today — Calatayud holds a fundraiser for her Senate District 38 campaign: noon, Town Kitchen & Bar, 7301 S.W. 57th Court, South Miami.

Happening tonight:

— STATEWIDE —

‘Anti-riot’ law infringes on right to protest, United Nations committee says” via C. Isaiah Smalls II of the Miami Herald — A law passed by Florida Republicans in reaction to the protests that erupted across the U.S. in the summer of 2020 restricts “the right to peaceful assembly.” according to a United Nations committee tasked with monitoring human rights across the globe. “The Committee is concerned about reports of increasing legislative measures and initiatives at the state level that unduly restrict the right to peaceful assembly following anti-racism protests in recent years, such as the HB1 Combating Public Disorder law in Florida,” the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) report states.

DeSantis defends no-vax Novak Djokovic after exclusion from U.S. Open” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — “You think about some of these mandates that have been done in the last couple of years. You still see them now,” DeSantis said at a news conference. “They’re not letting Djokovic come to the United States to play in the U.S. Open because of the shot!” “He’s already had COVID,” DeSantis litigated. “And the shot is not, it’s not stopping you from getting this. It’s so bizarre. It’s so stupid that they’re doing this, but you had a lot of these bizarre policies going on in these other states.” “You’re letting people come across the border without shots, but you won’t let him come in and compete,” DeSantis added.

Still unvaccinated, Novak Djokovic is passing up the U.S. Open.

DeSantis announces $2.7M to support King’s Landing development in Fort Pierce” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis announced a $2.7 million infrastructure award to support an upcoming development in Fort Pierce. DeSantis traveled to the Treasure Coast city on Tuesday to announce the latest distribution from the Job Growth Grant Fund. In Fort Pierce, the state will help pay to reconstruct aging utility infrastructure, reconstruct a part of Indian River Drive, make pedestrian safety enhancements, and improve the historic Moore’s Creek Bridge, all to benefit the upcoming 8-acre mixed-use King’s Landing site.

Medicaid care for transgender children is rare data shows” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — A dozen children diagnosed with gender dysphoria underwent surgeries over a 12-month period through June 30. The report lists only cases covered by Medicaid and omits those paid by private health insurance or other means. The actual number of children treated is likely higher. In the same year, 346 children were prescribed male hormones, 151 were administered female hormones and 55 were prescribed puberty blockers.

Medicaid managed care plans send big checks to increase access to health care services” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Two Medicaid managed care plans this month have provided grant money to increase access to health care services. Simply Healthcare Plans gave a $150,000 grant to the Florida Behavioral Health Association (FBHA) to support certified community behavioral health clinics (CCBHC). The CCBHC model is an innovative, integrated health care model developed to ensure access to a comprehensive array of behavioral health care services for mental health and substance abuse disorders for anyone who needs care, regardless of their ability to pay, where they live, or their age.

Feds, state, Seminoles defend Florida’s sports-betting deal in court; No Casinos group pushes back” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — In a fight over who can control gambling in Florida, the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida have filed arguments with a federal appellate court defending their five-year, $2.5 billion gambling compact, which would allow sports betting statewide as long as all bets are funneled through computer servers on tribal land. No Casinos, an anti-gambling organization, which is not a party to this case, plans to file its own amicus brief on behalf of state voters who supported Florida’s Constitution ban on expanding gambling absent a statewide referendum.

‘Stronger, healthier, safer communities’: Shevrin Jones unveils multicity town hall tour in SD 34” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Fresh off his emphatic re-election victory, Sen. Jones is launching a town hall tour across several cities in Senate District 34. Jones’ Office on Tuesday announced plans for the tour, which will run over the coming weeks and provide constituents and local leaders an opportunity to give feedback ahead of the next Legislative Session. “Throughout my time in public service, my team and I have led with the principles of accessibility, transparency, and approachability, and this upcoming Legislative Session will be no different,” Jones said in a statement.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Joe Biden to give prime-time speech about ‘soul of the nation’ as voters prepare to cast midterm ballots” via Mike Memoli of NBC News — Biden plans to deliver a prime-time speech this week about how America’s “rights and freedoms are still under attack,” returning to the core message of his 2020 campaign as Americans are getting ready to vote in the November Midterm Elections. A White House official said Thursday’s address at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia would focus on “the continued battle for the soul of the nation” and show how the President sees the central argument of his 2020 candidacy remains as salient as ever with the Midterm Elections coming into clearer focus. The President will lay out how America’s standing in the world and its democracy are at stake, the official said.

Joe Biden will remind Americans that democracy itself is on the ballot. Image via AP.

Rick Scott rebukes Mitch McConnell pessimism about GOP Senate takeover” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Scott told a national audience that the Senate Minority Leader was wrong to believe there’s an even chance the Senate stays Democratic next year. “No! We’ve got great candidates! Look at the background of these people. These are wonderful individuals that believe in this country, and they believe in the right things,” Scott said on the “Hannity” program. “We are going to win, but we’ve got to raise our money. When we raise our money, we win.” McConnell was less optimistic. “Flipping the Senate, what are the chances? It’s a 50-50 proposition. We’ve got a 50-50 Senate right now. We’ve got a 50-50 nation. And I think the outcome is likely to be very, very close either way,” McConnell told the Scott County Chamber of Commerce.

Merrick Garland bans campaign activity by Justice Dept. political appointees” via Perry Stein of The Washington Post — Justice Department political appointees cannot participate in campaign-related activities in any capacity, Attorney General Garland said Tuesday, describing the change as necessary “to maintain public trust and ensure that politics — both in fact and appearance — does not compromise or affect the integrity of our work.” The new policy underscores the intense political scrutiny Garland is facing two months before the Midterm Elections, as his agency investigates Trump’s handling of classified documents since leaving office and the potential involvement of Trump and other Republican politicians in efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Patient groups sue HHS over copay assistance rule” via Jessie Hellmann of Roll Call — A trio of patient advocacy groups is challenging a Trump-era rule that allows insurers to prevent financial assistance from drug companies from counting toward a patient’s annual out-of-pocket costs. Insurers argue that drug companies’ copay assistance programs allow drug companies to steer patients toward expensive brand-name drugs, driving up health costs for everyone. But in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute, the Diabetes Leadership Council and the Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition argue that the rule disproportionately impacts people with chronic diseases, like diabetes and HIV, which require the use of costly drugs. The groups filed the suit against the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

NASA to try and launch Artemis I on Saturday” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — NASA announced it would pursue a launch of its $4.1 billion rocket to the moon Saturday. The two-hour launch window opens at 2:17 p.m. and teams will meet on Thursday for another review before an official countdown start. The Space Launch Delta 45 weather squadron predicts only a 40% chance of good conditions. “I’m optimistic that we’ll have some clear air to work with during the afternoon attempt on Saturday,” said 45th Weather Squadron Launch Officer Mark Burger.— LOCAL: S. FL —

Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez jailed briefly. Warrant details corruption probe” via David Ovalle and Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Commissioner Martinez surrendered on Tuesday to face criminal charges, as an arrest warrant revealed he is being accused of accepting $15,000 in exchange for sponsoring a law more than five years ago to help a shopping plaza that had been repeatedly slapped with fines for code violations. Martinez was charged with unlawful compensation and conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation. The Commissioner, who faces a possible suspension from office by DeSantis, has already proclaimed his innocence, lashing out at prosecutors and calling the case “politically motivated.”

Joe Martinez spends time in the clink. Just a little.

Witness says Parkland gunman had trouble making friends and controlling his behavior” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A reluctant witness took the stand Tuesday in the sentencing trial of Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz. “I do not wish to be here [but] I was subpoenaed,” Jessica Clark Flournoy, a mental health counselor who treated Cruz for two years while he was in middle school, told the court. Flournoy described Cruz as an anxious, nervous boy who had trouble concentrating and making friends during his time at Westglades Middle School in Parkland. “He did not have a lot of confidence in his abilities,” Flournoy testified under questioning from Assistant Public Defender Tamara Curtis. “He was sad about it.”

Parents of man killed in Miami-Dade bus crash await Legislature OK for balance of $1.25M settlement” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Thirty-three-year-old Jason Sanchez was traveling by motorcycle northbound on Southwest 107th Avenue in West Miami-Dade on May 13, 2019, when the driver of a county-owned Metrobus improperly advanced into an intersection and caused a crash that killed him. Now, more than three years after they successfully sued the county, his parents, Jacqueline Abreu and Manuel Sanchez, could receive the balance of a $1.25 million wrongful death settlement. This month, Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez filed a measure (SB 6) to allow that to happen. It’s one of the first items filed for the 2023 Legislative Session.

DeSantis appointees sworn into Broward School Board; new Chair, Vice Chair named” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — The four new Broward School Board members appointed last Friday by DeSantis were sworn in Tuesday morning and all vowed to bring change to the school district, despite three of their terms ending in just a few months. Ryan Reiter stepped into District 1; Torey Alston into District 2; Manuel “Nandy” A. Serrano into District 6; and Kevin Tynan into the countywide at-large seat in District 8. All of them will be replaced by newly elected officials after the Nov. 8 runoff elections, except for Alston, who will stay until former board member Patricia Good’s term ends in 2024.

Suspended Broward School Board member to press on with her runoff election” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Suspended Broward County School Board member Donna Korn said she will press on with her runoff election coming in November, even if it presents the possibility DeSantis will suspend her again if she wins the election. Her temporary replacement was sworn in Tuesday morning, but Korn shrugged off the grand jury’s findings released Friday that she and four other School Board members were negligent in their duties. DeSantis cited the grand jury report findings in his decision to suspend Korn and three other sitting members of the Board Friday.

Suspended School Board member Donna Korn will keep running — even if she gets suspended again.

The Julia Botel controversy: Politics, race and ire behind drive to remove Riviera Beach Councilwoman” via Wayne Washington of the Palm Beach Post — Politics, race and resentment animate the drive to recall Riviera Beach City Council member Botel. The recall is also a full circle moment for Botel, who once backed an effort to recall a trio of City Council members after they voted to fire City Manager Jonathan Evans. Those Council members were ultimately voted out of office, and Evans was rehired. Botel was elected to office not long before the Council members she once opposed lost their seats. But now Botel, the only White Council member in majority-Black Riviera Beach, has angered many Black residents, who said she spread racist misinformation about a Singer Island beach party that was expected to draw a large Black crowd on July 3.

Happening today — Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper gives a speech to the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches: noon, Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Luis Viera to kick off re-election campaign Wednesday” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Tampa City Council member Viera will be kicking off his re-election campaign this Wednesday at the Columbia Museum, where he’ll be hosted by several prominent local Democrats. The campaign launch event will start at 6 p.m. at the Columbia Museum. Viera will be hosted by former Sen. Betty Castor, who became the first woman elected to the Florida Cabinet, Sens. Janet Cruz and Darryl Rouson, as well as incoming House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell and Rep. Ben Diamond. Hillsborough County Commissioners Harry Cohen, Gwen Myers and Mariella Smith are also part of Viera’s host committee.

Luis Viera is ready to hit the trail.

Pinellas’ new superintendent Kevin Hendrick is ‘listening and learning’” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Hendrick took over the Pinellas County school superintendent job in July with a detailed plan for his first six months. Now he’s seeking ideas to refine the district’s direction moving forward. In a series of town hall meetings, Hendrick is asking parents, teachers and other interested community members for their input on making Pinellas schools better and creating more “points of pride.” “Your experiences and your thoughts are why we are here,” Hendrick told a crowd of about 25 during the latest session, conducted Monday at Richard O. Jacobson Technical High School.

Land war: Universal defends itself in lawsuit over ‘Epic Universe’ land deal” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Defending itself in a lawsuit, Universal argued it was not aware of any other existing deals for the land that Universal bought for its Epic Universe theme park in Orlando. Earlier this year, Fourth Watch Acquisitions filed a $250 million lawsuit claiming it was under contract to buy 135 acres of land from developer Stan Thomas’ Universal City Property Management (UCPM). Instead, Thomas sold the land to Universal behind Fourth Watch’s back in 2018 as part of a lawsuit settlement related to another matter, Fourth Watch’s lawsuit alleged. Fourth Watch is suing both Universal and UCPM as Universal builds its new theme park set to open by the summer of 2025 near the Orange County Convention Center.

— LOCAL: SW. FL —

Nancy Detert questions affordability of tiny homes” via Barb Richardson of The Sun — When Sarasota County Commissioner Detert heard the price range — $1,900 to $2,300 — for rent in a tiny homes apartment project in Venice approved by the Commission on July 13, she was outraged. Saying those one-month rents for a 750-square-foot unit were unaffordable, she added frustration near the end of the public hearing. “I’m still upset by the prices,” she said. Some six weeks later, Detert is still upset, and she voiced her displeasure clearly during the Commissioners’ first meeting Tuesday after their summer break. “What’s developing isn’t affordable,” Detert said Tuesday during her board report. “It’s the bastardization of a good idea.”

Nancy Detert thinks the rent is too damn … you know the rest.

SWFL leads America’s rental price increases. But somehow things seem to be getting better?” via Phil Fernandez of the Fort Myers News-Press — For the second month in a row, Lee County leads America in largest year-over-year rental increases at 25.2%. But some cooling has begun, just not nearly to what had been a normal level, according to the latest monthly analysis by Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida Atlantic University, and the University of Alabama. Since February, the Lee average charge rose 7.1%, indicating the worst of it occurred more than six months ago, said Professor Ken H. Johnson, an FAU economist. Traditionally, rents have increased only 3 to 5% a year, an indication of how far off the norm recent hikes have been, Johnson said.

David Lawrence Center wants to bring Alzheimer’s research hub to Southwest Florida” via Matthew Seaver of WINK — The David Lawrence Center says there are about 20,000 people with Alzheimer’s in Southwest Florida, a disease that affects not only the person living with it but those around them. There is a push to bring a research hub to Southwest Florida to support patients and families. But what about treating the disease itself? David Lawrence Center CEO Scott Burgess hopes a new partnership with the University of South Florida could provide an answer. Burgess wants the David Lawrence Center to be the place families turn to after getting that devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Burgess said the David Lawrence Center is in the exploratory phase, talking to experts and caregivers. In two to three months, they’ll lay out a more detailed plan for specialized service.

Happening today — Rep. Fiona McFarland will give a speech at a meeting of the Sarasota County Young Republicans: 6:30 p.m., Raffurty’s Bar and Grille, 1888 Main St., Sarasota.

—LOCAL: N. FL —

Assignment editors — Americans for Prosperity-Florida will be at a Tallahassee gas station to lower the price of gasoline to $2.38 per gallon — the national average in mid-January 2021 — as part of a national “The True Cost of Washington” campaign: 9:30 a.m., Marathon Gas Station, 1703 Mahan Drive, Tallahassee.

Bradley Bean campaign for Fernandina Beach Mayor whirs into action” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Incumbent Mayor Mike Lednovich is up for re-election in his district, which means he can’t run again for the position. Those eligible are current City Commissioners who aren’t otherwise on the ballot, so into the ring comes Commissioners Bean and David Sturges, one of whom will be the next leader of the city. Bean essentially kicked off the municipal campaign season virtually when he recently changed his Facebook page banner to a “Bean for Mayor” image. His campaign is running on the slogan “Fernandina First.” Bean also reiterates his commitment to the city parks and their oft-debated tree canopy.

Bradley Bean is ready to make a difference in Fernandina Beach.

Summer storms strike hard on Nassau County infrastructure” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Development, climate change and lack of resources or timely upkeep all factor into deteriorating infrastructure. Everyday weather shouldn’t cause roadways to become impassable, yet that’s the situation. “Bear with us on the rain,” Nassau County Commissioner Thomas Ford said at the last Commission meeting. “Dirt roads — the graders are working overtime, and we appreciate it very much.” Ford and Commissioner Klynt Farmer both represent western Nassau districts that have a rural road infrastructure more typical of what used to cover Nassau County decades before the latest development explosion from Interstate 95 east to the Amelia River.

‘University that is on the rise’: Richard McCullough marks 1-year milestone as FSU president” via Tarah Jean of the Tallahassee Democrat — On Aug. 16, 2021, McCullough took over the president’s post to lead Florida State University, a key economic engine in the region and one of the largest universities in the state with over 44,000 students. With an operating budget of over $2 billion — a 9% increase in funding from last year, McCullough has also successfully navigated his first Legislative Session with the university hailing it as “the most successful in university history.” At the same time, he’s overseeing about $1 billion in upcoming construction work, McCullough is assembling his leadership team and shoring up his relationship with the Board of Trustees as the university’s 16th president, succeeding John Thrasher, who served from 2014 to 2021.

Bagdad Village Museum will reopen after two-year closure forced by COVID-19” via Alex Miller of the Pensacola News Journal — A church over a century old sits on a Bagdad lot near a collection of parking spaces. For now, those spots are still empty, just like they have for the last two years. But in September, they will welcome visitors excited to see the inside of the church, which acts as the face of the Bagdad Village Museum Complex. There is a group of roughly 10 people, the Bagdad Village Preservation Association, who have been working to maintain the history of the village of Bagdad, which sits just outside Milton. However, for the past two years, the coronavirus pandemic has forced the museum to shut its doors. On Sept. 10, it will open back up to the public with cosmetic improvements to give the museum a fresh aura.

— TOP OPINION —

The nation paid attention to Judge Jared Smith’s teen abortion ruling” via Anita Bernstein for the Tampa Bay Times — When Hillsborough County voters ousted Circuit Judge Smith, they brought international attention to Tampa. Smith lost his job almost certainly because of his decision in January about an abortion for a pregnant minor.

A 17-year-old girl came to Smith’s court asking permission to have the procedure without her parents’ consent. Court papers call this minor Jane Doe, a pseudonym that shields her privacy. What Smith wrote when denying Jane Doe’s petition is shielded for the same good reason. But the public learned about his decision when a higher court reversed it in an opinion that reports his analysis.

Jane Doe wanted to stop being pregnant. She wasn’t trying to join her school’s honor society. Florida law required her to be mature enough to understand abortion for herself. Termination is not a prize reserved for competitors who excel.

A minor who applies for abortion permission needs protection from one key danger — that someone is pressing her to terminate a pregnancy that she wants to keep. Florida law honors this priority by requiring judges to consider this possibility before they may grant a petition.

Ideally, before going through either abortion or motherhood, a person ought to be mature. But “sufficiently mature,” Florida’s legal standard that a pregnant minor must meet for her abortion to be approved, lets young people be young. Wisdom, experience, and preparation for adult life are not mandatory.

— OPINIONS —

Congress must put an end to Biden’s ‘come one, come all’ immigration fiasco” via Lora Ries of the Miami Herald — The Biden administration has opened our southern border to an unlimited number of illegal immigrants from all parts of the globe and has no intention of changing course. Rather than act to secure our border, it has implemented a three-point border plan. Congress has the obligation to disapprove of the rule and bring meaning and integrity back to asylum. Countless illegal immigrants approaching our southern border admit to journalists and agents that they are coming to the United States to work. They are economic migrants, not victims of persecution.

Donald Trump wants to be treated like Hillary Clinton? By all means.” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — Trump and his MAGA mouthpieces say he should be treated the same way Clinton was — and they’re right! Ever since the FBI found boxes upon boxes of government secrets hoarded at his resort residence, Trump has complained that he’s being held to a different standard from the one applied to Clinton during the probe of her private email server in 2016. “Absolutely nothing has happened to hold her accountable,” Trump claimed when he confirmed the search of Mar-a-Lago. MAGA Republicans should be careful what they wish for as they respond to every development in Trump’s legal saga with fits of whataboutism

The real election fraud wasn’t by 20 ex-cons but one current Governor” via the Palm Beach Post editorial board — The first arrests by DeSantis’ new election police lived up to their intent. That is, the staged announcements about voter fraud distracted from actual misdeeds by the Governor — his redrawing of congressional district maps to favor his party despite a law enacted to prevent that. The arrests won the Governor the attention he craved, at the expense of 20 released ex-cons. The 20, including three from Palm Beach County, had served their time and for all appearances had no idea they’d broken the law again, much less by committing that most heinous of all crimes — voting. They’d heard the law had changed and that felons were eligible to have their rights restored and were encouraged to register.

Florida’s caped ‘freedom fighter’ stands up to compassion and punches it in the nose” via Leonard Pitts, Jr. of the Miami Herald — DeSantis was walking down the street when he heard it — the bloodcurdling sound of children being ruthlessly exposed to diversity. Faster than you can say, “political hack,” he ducked behind a handy mango tree. Moments later, gone was the mild-mannered Governor of a great southeastern state. In his place, clad in the teal unitard and pink cape that strike terror in purveyors of compassion everywhere, stood … Captain Florida! Wasting not an instant, the sunshine avenger scanned the horizon with his opportunistic vision until he spotted the source of the sound. There, in a middle school classroom, the Woke Monster towered over two boys.

As FPL scandals mount, NextEra board members stay silent, collect big bucks” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — It seems rarely a month goes by without Florida Power & Light being part of another salacious headline. Operatives for the giant utility wrote a bill that tried to hamper Florida’s residential solar program. One energy-industry analyst firm recently downgraded its outlook on FPL’s parent company, NextEra, citing “growing media scrutiny of FPL’s lobbying practices against distributed solar and retail choice,” saying it made them “uncomfortable.”

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

Disney Cruise Line plays catchup, opens up COVID-19 testing restrictions” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney Cruise Line announced it would relax COVID-19 testing requirements for most of its ships in late September. The update to its health safety protocols announced Monday does not change its stance on vaccinations, which were already shifting to allow more unvaccinated children to sail. But as far as testing goes, vaccinated passengers sailing on the new Disney Wish, Disney Fantasy, Disney Dream, and Disney Wonder will be able to board without any pre-cruise testing starting Sept. 23. The same goes for Disney Magic, currently in Europe, beginning Nov. 7 when it returns stateside.

All aboard: Disney Cruise Lines relax COVID-19 restrictions.

Pro soccer returning to Jacksonville with Tim Tebow-backed USL franchise” via Clayton Freeman of The Florida Times-Union — An ownership group including former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tebow has acquired the rights to form a new franchise within the United Soccer League, aiming to return professional soccer to Jacksonville in 2025. Pending successful progress on establishing a home venue, the club intends to begin competition in the USL Championship — equivalent to the second level of the American soccer structure — in the spring of 2025. Ricky Caplin, principal of the Caplin Family Offices, will serve as the head of the JAXUSL ownership group. Also included in the group are Tebow and two experienced figures in Jacksonville’s soccer world, former Jacksonville Armada President Steve Livingstone and former Jax Chamber director of downtown engagement Tony Allegretti.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Florida Politics’ Joe Henderson, Michelle Dennard of CareerSource Florida, Ryan Gorman, Ashley Green, Gene McGee, and Dr. Ed Moore. Belated best wishes to my fellow Disney Cruise aficionado, INFLUENCE 100 alum, and TallyMadness champ, the great Jon Johnson of Johnson & Blanton.

___

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

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