Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.1.22

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Good Thursday morning.

Let’s start with some good news about great people — Recently married political power duo Keaton and Tom Griffin are joining forces in another way, forming the Griffin Group, a full-service government relations firm.

Tom amicably departs Smith, Bryan, and Myers after six years with the firm. A seasoned political campaign manager and fundraiser, Tom also boasts top-level experience in the Florida Legislature, where he worked for Sen. Rob Bradley of Fleming Island.

Keaton and Tom Griffin: A power couple strikes out on their own.

Keaton Alexander Griffin has run the government relations firm Silver Palm Consulting for the last five years. Her earlier work ranged from serving as a legislative aide to Senate President Wilton Simpson to finance coordinator for JEB! 2016, as well as fundraising in Washington, D.C. A fifth-generation Floridian and native of Polk County, Keaton is the daughter of former Senate Appropriations Chair JD Alexander and the great-granddaughter of Ben Hill Griffin, Sr.

Keaton and Tom will oversee their government relations venture while dividing their time between Lakeland and Tallahassee.

The Griffin Group will specialize in education, agriculture, land use, local government, IT, criminal justice and health care.

Florida takes tech spotlight at Chamber’s Technology & Innovation Solution Summit” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — California, Texas, North Carolina. What do they have for technological innovation that Florida doesn’t have or can’t obtain? The belief is not much, that what it takes for Florida to lead on technology is commitment and collaboration among leaders in the field. “We want to be globally competitive — we want high-wage, high-skill jobs, and we want vibrant and resilient communities,” said Mark Wilson, President of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Foundation. “At the end of the day, that’s what we wish every County Commission, every city, every group in Florida would be thinking about in every decision that they make.”

Tampa-based Strategos Group partner to host TEDxSouth Howard Avenue” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Adam Giery, managing partner of Tampa-based consulting firm Strategos Group, is set to host Tampa’s TEDxSouth Howard Avenue event. The event, set for Feb. 24 at Hyde House Public Studio, will highlight local stories with global impact. Those interested in speaking, attending, or volunteering for the event can register here. The speaker’s submission deadline is Oct. 15. “I feel a desire to inspire the place I call home — Tampa. Reflecting on my life during COVID, I have two noticeable emotions — a deeper appreciation for human interaction and a desire to engage in meaningful dialogue. This led me to TEDx,” Giery said in a statement.

If you are a fan of the movie “Heat” and/or are reading the book, “Heat 2,” work in the political process, and would like to be part of a roundtable (next week in Tally) about the movie and the book, please email [email protected].

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@MattDPearce: Our democracy is teetering on the brink, but the paper of record in our capitol city, which is owned by one of the richest human beings to ever exist, is talking about cutting newsroom jobs because it’s not hitting its marks. Give me a break.

@JeffSharlet: (Donald) Trump has moved off suggesting things were planted and now says documents were “in cartons” at his house/club … which he says even though his lawyer signed a document asserting all material was in the storage area and went back, per DOJ

@Charlie_Savage: Trump is so mad about the optics — people may not understand it was the FBI that spread out the files from Box 2A to take a standard evidence photo — that he’s ignoring the legal implications of coming very close to acknowledging that he knew he had them in his office.

Tweet, tweet:

@JohnFSnyder: In Florida, we care about our health care heroes and protected them from vaccine mandates. In California, they are trying to make doctors bow at the almighty altar of the never-wrong fact checkers or they will take their license.

@Kylamb8: Seems some on the left have forgotten it was set up as the United States of America, not the United Federal Bureaucracy of America. This is not, nor has it ever been, a unitary form of government.

@JoyForFL: On International Overdose Awareness Day, we remember those who we lost due to overdose and support family/friends who are dealing with the detrimental effects of overdose.

@DanielStrauss4: It’s really weird that people complain about the historical accuracy of having Black people be knights and lords, but those same people are fine with … dragons existing in the same world …

@RabalaisAdv: The #LSU-FSU game is officially a sellout. This from the Sugar Bowl, which is running the game, the Allstate Louisiana Kickoff.

— DAYS UNTIL —

‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 1; Charlie Crist to Speak at the Miami-Dade Democratic Party Blue Gala — 8; NFL Opening Night: LA Rams vs. Buffalo Bills — 8; 2022 Emmys — 10; JMI’s 2022 Tech & Innovation Summit begins — 14; final season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 14; ‘Andor’ premieres on Disney+ — 20; vote-by-mail mailing deadline for General Election — 35; deadline to register for General Election — 39; 22-23 NHL season begins — 40; ‘Before You Vote’ TV debates (Senate) — 47; ‘Before You Vote’ TV debates (Governor) — 49; Taylor Swift’s ‘Midnights’ release — 50; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 54; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 54; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 55; Early voting begins for General Election — 59; 2022 General Election — 68; ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ premieres — 71; ‘Captain Marvel 2? premieres — 71; FITCon 2022 begins — 77; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 77; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 81; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 81; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 82; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 90; ‘Willow’ premieres on Disney+ — 90; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 106; Bruce Springsteen launches his 2023 tour in Tampa — 153; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 169; TEDxSouth Howard Avenue — 176; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 187; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4? premieres — 204; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies’ 23 conference begins — 229; 2023 Session Sine Die — 246; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 246; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 274; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 323; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 428; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 442; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 575; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 694; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 694; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 799; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 974.

— TOP STORY —

U.S. life expectancy falls again in ‘historic’ setback” via Roni Caryn Rabin of The New York Times — In 2021, the average American could expect to live until the age of 76, federal health researchers reported Wednesday. The figure represents a loss of almost three years since 2019, when Americans could expect to live, on average, nearly 79 years.

The reduction has been particularly steep among Native Americans and Alaska Natives, the National Center for Health Statistics reported. Average life expectancy in those groups was shortened by four years in 2020 alone.

RIP: Americans are dying younger, by almost three years compared to 2019.

The cumulative decline since the pandemic started, more than six and a half years on average, has brought life expectancy to 65 among Native Americans and Alaska Natives — on par with the figure for all Americans in 1944.

In 2021, the shortening of life span was more pronounced among white Americans than among Black Americans, who saw greater reductions in the first year of the pandemic.

While the pandemic has driven most of the decline in life expectancy, a rise in accidental deaths and drug overdoses also contributed, as did deaths from heart disease, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, the new report found.

Until now, experts have been accustomed to measuring life expectancy changes in increments of months, not years.

— DESANTIS V. CRIST —

Charlie Crist resigns from Congress as campaign for Governor heats up” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Crist will leave his Pinellas County-based seat vacant until after the November election. Crist said the resignation will be effective at the end of the day Wednesday. In a statement, he said serving as a representative has been “an honor and a privilege.” His statement did not mention why he was resigning — though there’s only a handful of weeks left for Crist to campaign before he faces Gov. Ron DeSantis in the November Gubernatorial Election.

Charlie Crist gives up his House seat.

Crist to speak at Miami-Dade Democratic Party’s Blue Gala on Miami Beach” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The full roster of current and former elected leaders speaking this year at the Miami-Dade Democratic Party’s 2022 Blue Gala isn’t out yet, but the man hoping to lead progressives statewide after Election Day is now a lock for the event. On Wednesday, gubernatorial candidate and former U.S. Rep. Crist confirmed he will be among the speakers at the Blue Gala on Sept. 9 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Word of his participation came four days after he selected United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hern?ndez as his running mate and mere hours after he resigned from Congress to focus on the Governor’s race.

News is becoming secondary to Ron DeSantis news conferences as he seeks re-election” via Michael Moline of the Florida Phoenix — DeSantis spent the first 13 minutes of a news conference in Fort Pierce bashing Joe Biden administration policies and praising his own before getting to the ostensible official point of the visit: announcing a $2.7 million grant to fix downtown infrastructure. The Governor was about 20 minutes into a second appearance that day in Live Oak in North Florida before announcing a $1.9 million grant to finance improvements to an industrial park. Again, he delivered essentially a campaign stump speech comparing his record to Biden on issues including COVID-19 safeguards, immigration policy, student loan forgiveness, and inflation.

No pivot here. DeSantis is betting his re-election that Florida is now a hard-right state” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis, though, has chosen a different tactic. He’s staying hard right. And there’s something to respect about that. For evidence, look no further than the day after the Primary Election when DeSantis appeared at a GOP rally in Seminole County. Instead of shifting to a softer tone, promoting things that might universally appeal to all voters, DeSantis started teeing off on one of the right’s favorite punching bags, Dr. Anthony Fauci, with DeSantis saying he wished someone would physically hurl the doctor out of Washington D.C.

Ron DeSantis pivot? No way. Image via Renzo Downey.

Why is Crist’s running mate drawing fire from Republicans?” via Colleen Wright of the Tampa Bay Times — It took only hours after Crist chose his running mate last week for Republicans to go on the offensive. In his bid to unseat DeSantis, Crist picked Karla Hern?ndez as his Lieutenant Governor. Hern?ndez and her union “cared more about the power of their union than they did about the best interests of these kids. That is disgraceful,” DeSantis said. “You do not put union politics ahead of middle school students who are in danger of being sexually abused.”

— 2022 —

Republicans in key races scrap online references to Donald Trump, abortion” via Colby Itkowitz of The Washington Post — At least nine Republican congressional candidates have scrubbed or amended references to Trump or abortion from their online profiles in recent months, distancing themselves from divisive subjects that some GOP strategists say are two of the biggest liabilities for the party ahead of the post-Labor Day sprint to Election Day. “The Dobbs decision has clearly energized Democratic voters to the point where they have closed the enthusiasm gap with Republicans,” said Whit Ayres, a longtime GOP pollster.

Republicans are starting to retcon Donald Trump. Image via Reuters.

Democrats see opening to take down Marco Rubio” of Max Greenwood of The Hill — Democrats are seeing new glimmers of hope for their chances of ousting Sen. Rubio in Florida after months of hand-wringing over just how aggressively they should pursue his seat. Until recently, the Senate race drew little attention from national Democrats who have grown increasingly skeptical that their candidates can remain competitive in the Sunshine State after a spate of narrow, though still painful, losses. Rubio is a seasoned politician with a track record of winning statewide by wide margins, and most public polling in the race between him and Demings shows Rubio in the lead.

Andrea Doria Kale to challenge Greg Steube on a woman’s right to choose” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Kale quietly qualified earlier this year to challenge U.S. Rep. Steube for his seat in Congress. Now, the former Hillary Clinton campaign official hopes to make some serious noise by unseating him. A self-described “Bill Clinton Democrat,” the North Port resident hopes to surprise people and win a seat that’s not on many people’s radars. She sees any number of reasons why the far-right politics of Trump and Steube shouldn’t represent the district where she has lived since 2015.

‘Ready to fight for a brighter future’: Daniella Levine Cava backs Janelle Perez for SD 38” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Levine Cava, the county’s first woman Mayor, is throwing her emphatic support behind Democratic local business owner Perez’s bid for Senate District 38. Perez’s campaign announced Levine Cava’s endorsement Wednesday. In an accompanying statement, the Mayor called Perez “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. Perez is a co-owner of her family’s Coral Gables-based managed care company Doctors Healthcare Plans Inc.

‘A fighter’: Perez debuts first pair of English and Spanish broadcast ads for SD 38” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Democratic business owner Perez’s campaign for SD 38 is debuting its first broadcast ads in English and Spanish depicting her as a “fighter” for improved health care options and living costs. The spots show Perez’s father describing her as “a fighter who is passionate to serve our community.” They then switch to the candidate herself, a Miami-born daughter of Cuban exiles whose successful struggle against stage 4 follicular lymphoma and leadership work in the LGBTQ community informs her politics. “As a cancer survivor, I know accessible health care is critical, and as a working mom, I am willing to take on the affordability crisis with real solutions. Because it’s time we get things done for you.”

To watch the ad, please click the image below:

— STATEWIDE —

Cases against arrested voters on shaky legal ground. Florida issued them voter IDs” via Mary Ellen Klas, Lawrence Mower, and Romy Ellenbogen of the Miami Herald — Two weeks after DeSantis and the state’s top election officials stood in a Broward County courtroom and announced the arrest of 20 people for voting illegally, the state’s case is starting to fall apart. The announcement was the first initiative of the Governor’s Office of Election Crimes and Security, and it targeted people disqualified from voting because they’ve been convicted of murder or sexual assault. In the face of a stream of conflicting messages coming from DeSantis and state elections officials and the prospect of no immediate fix to the state’s confusing system for felons to regain their voting rights, advocates are urging those arrested to fight the charges.

The cases behind Ron DeSantis’ voter fraud arrests are starting to fall apart.

DeSantis ban on ‘woke’ investments could hurt state pension fund, experts say” via Jeffrey Schweers and Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — After banning CRT in the classroom and board room, Gov. Ron DeSantis has a new target in his culture war against “wokeness” with another acronym most folks have never heard of — ESG. DeSantis says he views investment policies that take “Environmental, Social and Governance” issues into consideration as an existential threat to Florida’s people and economy, just as he sees Critical Race Theory undermining the state’s social and cultural values.

Just 37% of 6th to 12th graders in a government course passed Florida’s new civics literacy exam” via Danielle J. Brown of Florida Phoenix — The state has issued a new Florida Civic Literacy Examination to assess how well public-school students understand what’s called “civic literacy.” Kids in a U.S. government course are required to take the new exam that covers everything from landmark Supreme Court cases to influential documents in American history to basic principles about how government functions. But so far, the first-time results are low: Only 37% of students passed in the 2021-22 school year. Students can pass with at least 60% correct answers on the computer-based exam, which includes approximately 80 items.

Political operatives whose feud spilled dark money secrets agree to settle suit” via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — A legal battle between the founder of an Alabama-based political consulting firm and its former operatives, who played a key role in Florida’s “ghost” candidate scandal and led behind-the-scenes efforts to tilt elections and influence public policy, has been resolved. Matrix LLC, led by longtime Alabama political operative Joe Perkins, filed suit in July 2021 against Canopy Partners, a Tallahassee firm launched in late 2020 by Jeff Pitts, Perkins’ former prot?g? and Matrix’s ex-CEO, as well as several other former Matrix employees. On Wednesday, all parties in the suit filed a joint stipulation in Alabama circuit court, dismissing it.

‘Ghost’ candidate testifies in case against GOP chair” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Seminole County GOP Chair Ben Paris, facing a criminal charge in an apparent vote-siphoning scheme in a competitive Central Florida state Senate race in 2020, asked independent “ghost” candidate Jestine Iannotti to run for the seat, she told the jury in Paris’ trial Wednesday. Though Iannotti had no political experience when she entered the race and did not campaign, her candidacy was central to the scheme, as she was promoted as a progressive in an advertising blitz that was apparently intended to draw votes from her Democratic opponent.

Florida suing FDA to get approval for Canadian drugs in Florida” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Charging that the federal government is dragging its feet despite assurances from Biden, DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody announced Florida is suing the FDA to let Florida import some prescription drugs from Canada. The Governor, Attorney General and others complained in a news conference in Lakeland that the FDA is holding up approval of Florida’s application that now has been pending for more than 630 days. “This has been a frustrating process from the macro to the micro. My team and I have had so many meetings with the FDA it’s not even funny. But all we’ve gotten is word salad,” said Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Simone Marstiller.

More legal scholars denounce suspension of Andrew Warren” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Several more legal scholars have come out in support of suspended Hillsborough County State Attorney Warren. In an amicus curiae brief, 115 legal scholars who specialize in legal ethics, professional responsibility, and criminal procedure denounce DeSantis’ suspension of Warren, calling it a “disturbing attack on democracy and the rule of law.” “Gov. DeSantis’ suspension of twice-elected State Attorney Warren should be deeply concerning to everyone who believes in democracy and the checks and balances our forebears established,” said Tampa-based Zuckerman Spaeder partner Sara Alpert Lawson.

Legal scholars give Andrew Warren some backup.

Florida takes tech spotlight at Chamber’s Technology & Innovation Solution Summit” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — “We want to be globally competitive — we want high-wage, high-skill jobs and we want vibrant and resilient communities,” said Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Foundation. “At the end of the day, that’s what we wish every County Commission, every city, every group in Florida would be thinking about in every decision that they make.” Florida has the fourth-largest tech industry in the country, behind Texas, with the second highest number of net new tech jobs, and more than 446,000 people working within it.

As Citizens seeks to shed risk, insolvencies send influx of policies” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Citizens Property Insurance Corporation passed 1 million policies this month and is continuing to grow despite efforts by its officials and lawmakers in recent years to reduce its risk by placing policies with private carriers. That task has grown harder as the private market has struggled, especially smaller domestic companies, and seen five insolvencies in the first eight months of the year. In another sign of the precarious nature of the property insurance market, more of the policies of failed insurers are going to Citizens.

Sugar farmers say a new study alleging harm from sugar-cane burns is ‘biased,’ misses key context” via Florida Politics — Florida’s sugar farmers are fighting back against a new study aiming to measure the effects of fine particle pollution from sugar-cane burning on South Florida, which farmers say is based on faulty “estimates and conjecture.” At issue is a study finding that two to three people die each year due to negative effects from those sugar-cane burns. But in a new release responding to those claims, farmers are pointing to previous studies showing air quality in the Glades region meets all environmental standards and is cleaner than the state average. An analysis of each county’s air pollution levels, conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, shows counties where sugar farms are primarily located are cleaner than the state average. That study measures the average daily density of fine particulate matter.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Joe Biden dodges the August curse” via Jonathan Lemire and Christopher Cadelago of POLITICO — Biden overcame COVID-19, the presidential August curse and the legislative blockade built by members of his own party. Now as the stretch run to the Midterms begins, the White House is looking to aim big. Biden over the next week will frame the stakes of the upcoming election as a referendum on democracy itself, while trying to push Democrats over the November finish line and lay the groundwork for himself in 2024. It will culminate in what has become a totem for the President: The Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh.

Joe Biden goes big in the Midterms. Image via AP.

Biden critics aren’t flocking to GOP like we’d expect. But why?” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — Democrats are outperforming the fundamentals that say the President’s party usually loses substantial ground in a Midterm, particularly when that President is unpopular. Voters who disapprove of Biden but “not so strongly” still favor Democrats over Republicans in the midterms, by 43% to 29%. Voters who “somewhat” disapproved of Biden were twice as likely to vote for Democrats as Republicans on the House “generic ballot” — 58% to 29%.

Sen. Rick Scott demands answers from CDC head regarding taxpayer-funded media training from Dem consultant” via Ronn Blitzer of Fox News — Scott is calling on CDC Director Rochelle Walensky for answers, following a report that she received media training from a Democrat-linked consultant on taxpayers’ dime. Scott’s letter to Walensky, sent Wednesday, referenced a POLITICO report from July saying that the Biden administration spent $25,750 for Walensky to have media training and executive coaching and authorized $30,500 in added spending. The report said that going back to October 2021, Walensky was trained by Democratic political consultant Mandy Grunwald, who charged approximately $500 per hour. Walensky also reported receiving coaching from Boston-based Wellesley Partners to improve her management skills, paid at a similar rate.

After U.N. rips Florida anti-riot law, Rubio questions taxpayer funding” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Rubio is pushing back against a United Nations committee condemnation of Florida’s recently passed anti-riot legislation. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concerns in a report against 2021’s House Bill 1, described by DeSantis as the “strongest anti-riot/pro-law enforcement legislation in the country.” The committee contends the legislation may be too strong, citing it as an example of a move to “unduly restrict the right to peaceful assembly.” But Rubio thinks the United Nations is out of bounds when it comes to weighing in on Florida legislation.

Mark Esper calls ‘extreme partisanship’ greatest threat facing U.S.” via Ivana Saric of Axios — Extreme partisanship from members of both political parties is the greatest threat currently facing the U.S., former Defense Secretary Esper said. The past few years have seen a deepening political divide in the U.S. that, with the events of the Capitol riot, showed the propensity to spill over into violence. “The greatest threat facing our country today is here at home. It’s extreme partisanship from both sides of the aisle that is hurting our political discourse, the social fabric of our country and our democracy,” Esper said.

What is the biggest threat to the U.S.? Mark Esper says it is extreme partisanship.

U.S. clears updated COVID-19 boosters targeting newest variants” via The Associated Press — The U.S. authorized its first update to COVID-19 vaccines, booster doses that target today’s most common omicron strain. Shots could begin within days. The move by the FDA tweaks the recipe of shots made by Pfizer and rival Moderna that already have saved millions of lives. The hope is that the modified boosters will blunt yet another winter surge and help tamp down the BA.5 omicron relative that continues to spread widely. “These updated boosters present us with an opportunity to get ahead” of the next COVID-19 wave, said FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

Documents at Mar-a-Lago were moved and hidden as U.S. sought them, filing suggests” via Glenn Thrush, Charlie Savage, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — The Justice Department sought a search warrant for Trump’s residence in Florida after obtaining evidence that highly classified documents were likely concealed and that Trump’s representatives had falsely claimed all sensitive material had been returned. Among the new disclosures was that the search yielded three classified documents in desks inside Trump’s office.

Trump claims the FBI threw documents on the floor at Mar-a-Lago” via Harriet Alexander and Morgan Philips of The Daily Mail — Trump has claimed the FBI agents were responsible for throwing classified documents on the floor of Mar-a-Lago — and said they were ‘perhaps pretending it was me who did it.’ ‘Terrible the way the FBI, during the Raid of Mar-a-Lago, threw documents haphazardly all over the floor (perhaps pretending it was me that did it!), and then started taking pictures of them for the public to see,’ he said in a Truth Social post. ‘Thought they wanted them kept Secret? Lucky I Declassified!’ he added during a flurry of posts condemning the FBI agent who retired amid backlash over the Hunter Biden probe.

Donald Trump hints that he may have been framed.

–“Takeaways from the government filing about what was hidden at Mar-a-Lago” via Amber Phillips of The Washington Post

Trump weighs delaying 2024 decision as political and legal troubles grow” via Gabby Orr and Kristen Holmes of CNN — Trump is considering waiting until after the November midterms to launch a third presidential campaign as he navigates a widening array of legal troubles and mounting concerns that some of his hand-picked Senate candidates may be weaker than he once thought. After months of eyeing Labor Day weekend as the target launch date for a 2024 campaign, Trump has spent the past few weeks backing away from that timeline following the FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago estate and an increased panic among Republicans that the party may not be in for the red wave it has long anticipated this November.

Here’s why the Trump GOP’s crazy quotient is expanding” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — Trump used his Truth Social site to demand that he be declared “the rightful winner” of the 2020 election, and he followed that by posting and sharing Tuesday a barrage of QAnon slogans and themes, doctored photos and false conspiracy notions, including a claim that the “FBI colluded with Antifa” in the Jan. 6 insurrection, and a forged tweet falsely purporting to be from Ivanka Trump calling COVID-19 vaccines “useless.” Republicans are caught in a vicious cycle: By discrediting the truth, they’ve created an incentive for each iteration of Republican challengers in each election cycle to distinguish themselves by embracing an even more sensational blend of falsehoods and conspiracy beliefs.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

New Broward School Board member was accused of abuse by former fiancee. He says there were ‘a lot of lies.’” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Ryan Reiter, appointed Friday to the Broward School by DeSantis, was accused by a former fiancee of abuse in a court filing five years ago. For most of 2017 and 2018, records show, he was prohibited by court order from having contact with her. In requesting the injunction for protection, the woman said there was “verbal and physical abuse,” and Circuit Judge Michael Kaplan issued several short-term orders for Reiter to stay away from her as the case proceeded, then an order of protection that lasted a year. In a petition for protection, filed in Broward County Circuit Court on July 19, 2017, the woman described a volatile relationship with confrontations fueled by alcohol.

Broward hasn’t earned an overall ‘A’ grade in years. Why the school district wants to fix that.” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The newly appointed Broward School Board on Wednesday said it wants to push harder to become an “A”-rated district, something that hasn’t happened in more than a decade. Right now, Broward is at a “B.” The last time Broward was at an “A” was in 2011, according to state records. In comparison, records from the Florida Department of Education show Miami-Dade Schools are currently rated an “A,” as are Palm Beach County schools. School Board Chair Torey Alston said district records from 2018-2019, compared to 2021-2022, showed problems and declared “we are in a learning crisis.” The state gave no grades in 2020 or 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Torey Alston says Broward schools are in a ‘learning crisis.’

Citing parental rights law, schools say some kids can’t be treated with Band-Aids, ice packs” via Katherine Kokal of the Palm Beach Post — Students whose families do not “opt-in” to medical services with their school districts will not be given Band-Aids, ice packs or other minor medical care, according to announcements and statements from Volusia and Palm Beach County School District officials, among others. Palm Beach County school officials say that’s because the Florida Parental Rights in Education Law, which went into effect July 1, requires schools to notify parents of health care services and give them the opportunity to consent to or decline them. In response, some counties added an “opt-in” question to their annual student registration form, which asks parents to consent to services in the school nurse’s office.

Second grade teacher at Palm Beach Gardens school arrested on child pornography charges” via Holly Baltz of the Palm Beach Post — A second grade teacher was arrested Wednesday and charged with possession of child pornography, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Timber Trace Elementary teacher Edward Jeffrey Parker, 54, of Jupiter is charged with 30 counts of possessing child pornography of 10 or more images of “Sexual Performance by a Child,” a news release from PBSO said. Parker, who was arrested off campus, has worked at the Palm Beach Gardens elementary school since 2002, according to a Palm Beach County Schools news release. “I want to assure all of our families that our school and District take all allegations of misconduct very seriously. Mr. Parker will not be returning to our campus,” Principal Kathy Pasquariello wrote to parents.

Former Presidential candidate will lead Florida League of Mayors” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam said he wasn’t finished when he suspended his 2020 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, and now, he’s been elected president of the Florida League of Mayors. Miramar’s Mayor since 2015, Messam succeeds Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer as the leader of the organization. He’ll be serving a one-year term. “While we’re all from different parts of our diverse state, we all share common goals, and the Florida League of Mayors helps us achieve those goals,” Messam said.

Wayne Messam goes from presidential candidate to leader of the Florida League of Mayors.

Cuba quietly releases from prison a Cuban American teacher convicted of espionage” via Nora G?mez Torres of the Miami Herald — The Cuban government has quietly commuted the sentence of Alina L?pez Miyares, a Cuban American teacher in Miami who was sent to prison after she was accused of espionage in 2017, in an unusual gesture that might signal Havana’s willingness to remove a diplomatic roadblock to further engagement with the United States. Citing good conduct, her chronic high blood pressure and “elemental principles of humanism,” a military court released L?pez Miyares on parole last month. However, she cannot leave the country until 2030, when the 13-year original sentence ends, according to a copy of the July 8 court decision obtained by the Herald.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Leader of group targeting Polk school library books asks police agencies to take action” via Paul Nutcher of The Lakeland Ledger — The leader of the County Citizens Defending Freedom has tried to get law enforcement, state prosecutors and lawmakers, including the governor’s office, to respond to the group’s complaint that parents should be required to opt-in to let their children check out books the group says are offensive and harmful to students. The district has chosen instead to maintain its opt-out policy but keeps the challenged books in Polk schools. Robert Goodman followed through with his pledge at the last Polk County School Board meeting to file police reports if the district kept distributing at least 12 of 16 controversial library books the group challenged late last year.

County Citizens Defending Freedom is prepared to take the Polk School District to court.

Orange County names new sustainability officer” via Sarah Wilson of WFTV — Someone new will lead Orange County’s sustainability efforts starting next month. County officials announced Monday that Carries Black will be the county’s next chief sustainability and resilience officer. The county said Black has a decade of experience in sustainability leadership, including directing efforts for Jacksonville University, Valencia College, and the Green Team Project. She also serves on the local U.S. Green Building Council, chairing the Green Education Committee and leading the Sustainability Officer Roundtable.

— LOCAL: SW. FL —

Business leaders, elected officials convene on affordable housing challenges for Southwest Florida” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Business leaders and Florida lawmakers gathered in Estero to discuss Southwest Florida’s greatest policy challenges. SWFL Inc., a chamber servicing Lee and Collier counties, hosted the State of the Region event at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point. Joshua Goergen, government affairs manager for SWFL Inc. and a former legislative staffer, said businesses through the coastal community have dealt with challenges both hiring and housing skilled workers. “How can we as a community bring more housing for our workforce?” Goergen said.

Reps. Adam Botana and Spencer Roach at SWFL Inc. State of the Region. Photo by Jacob Ogles.

How does the Parents’ Bill of Rights work in Lee County Schools? Here’s the new policy” via Nikki Ross of the Fort Myers News-Press — The Lee County School District unanimously voted on a policy Tuesday night that encompasses the new rules set forth by the Parents’ Bill of Rights law. The law itself, House Bill 241, which went into effect on July 1, gives parents rights that relate to their minor child’s education, upbringing, and health care. It also provides requirements and specified penalties to school districts, health care practitioners and hospitals.

Smoke from mulch fire in St. Lucie County could impact health; precautions recommended” via Will Greenlee of Treasure Coast Newspapers — A large mulch fire west of Interstate 95 continues emitting smoke, nearly a week after it started, and it’s expected to do so “for the next several weeks.” Officials outlined a number of precautions, such as staying indoors with windows and doors closed, to protect health and safety as the smoke continues. The fire, around Glades Cut Off and Range Line roads, began Aug. 25 and is estimated at 28 acres, according to Miguel Nevarez, public information officer with the Florida Forest Service.

Mikhail Gorbachev brought a message of peace to Florida college when he visited FGCU in 2006” via Harriet Howard Heithaus of the Naples Daily News — Gorbachev came to FGCU in 2006 to spread a very different message from the one that identifies Russia now. The plea of the last leader of the Soviet Union, who died Tuesday, was for peace. In fact, the title of his sold-out talk, 4,500 tickets to Alico Arena were gone in 15 minutes, was “Peace in the 21st Century.” It targeted environmental sustainability as a critical world collaboration.

–LOCAL: N. FL —

Jacksonville City Council pulls attempt to legalize ‘simulated gambling’ at adult arcades” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — The no-name business in a strip shopping center off Normandy Boulevard had something to hide behind plate glass windows covered top to bottom by sheets of black material. On the other side of the windows, inspection photos provided by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to the city’s code compliance division showed “simulated gambling devices and arcade machines.” Code compliance posted a cease-and-desist order on the door on June 28, marking the 25th time the city has shut down such operations since 2019 when City Council banned adult arcades that make money off games that resemble what’s found on a casino floor, city records show.

Nick Maddox picks up endorsement of former opponent Rudy Ferguson Sr.” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — In a surprise post-Primary twist, Leon County Commissioner Maddox picked up the endorsement of one of his three challengers, Pastor Rudy Ferguson Sr. Ferguson posed with Maddox for a photo posted Monday night on the Commissioner’s Facebook page with a “major endorsement alert.” The photo, which shows the two shaking hands, was taken Monday at the office of lawyer, lobbyist and political consultant Sean Pittman, who’s working for the Maddox campaign. “I am thankful to have the full endorsement and partnership of Rudy Ferguson Sr, Griffin Heights legend and senior pastor of New Birth Tabernacle of Praise,” Maddox said.

Nick Maddox picks up a surprising endorsement.

Florida Supreme Court issues reprimand, fine and suspension of Circuit Judge Barbara Hobbs” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Florida Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Circuit Judge Hobbs for getting involved with her son’s arrest and failing to properly manage her staff. Issued Wednesday by Chief Justice Carlos Mu?iz, the reprimand comes with a $30,000 fine, a 60-day suspension and requires Hobbs, a judge in the Second Judicial Circuit since 2012, to attend an employee management program. Hobbs is currently assigned to the family division in Leon County.

‘We do care’: FAMU President Larry Robinson meets with football players amid unrest” via Gerald Thomas III of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida A&M President Robinson described Tuesday’s meeting with disgruntled football players as “a very understanding dialogue,” saying he was thankful for the professional manner of players. “I got a little bit more of a sense of the passion and urgency,” Robinson said. Robinson and the players held a closed-door meeting for more than an hour inside the Galimore-Powell Fieldhouse following the Rattlers’ practice. Robinson wanted to address compliance, academic concerns, and athletic department deficiencies in response to a five-page letter that players signed and sent to him Monday. Robinson said he appreciated the letter.

— TOP OPINION —

Maybe U.S. mainstream media should begin using the term ‘fascism’” via Robert Reich for The Guardian — I’ve been watching the Florida Governor, DeSantis, for some time. Last Tuesday I tweeted: “Just wondering if ‘DeSantis’ is now officially a synonym for ‘fascist.'”

After a half-century in and around politics, I’ve got a thick skin. But the size of the blowback on my little tweet makes me think I struck a nerve.

DeSantis is the most likely rival to Trump for the Republican nomination in 2024. The Harvard and Yale-educated DeSantis (what do they teach at Harvard and Yale?) has been called “Trump with a brain.” DeSantis is the nation’s consummate culture warrior.

So, is it useful to characterize DeSantis’s combination of homophobia, transphobia, racism and misogyny, along with his efforts to control the public schools and universities and to intimidate the private sector (e.g.,, Disney), as redolent of fascism?

America’s mainstream media is by now comfortable talking and writing about “authoritarianism.” Maybe it should also begin using the term “fascism,” where appropriate.

Even Biden, never known as a rhetorical bomb-thrower, accused the Republican Party of “semi-fascism.”

Perhaps my “just wondering” tweet about DeSantis hit the nerve of the fascism now taking root in the Republican Party?

Or is DeSantis’s own nascent presidential campaign behind the outsized reaction to my tweet?

— OPINIONS —

DeSantis is a test case” via Thomas Edsall in The New York Times — The fact DeSantis, the Governor of Florida, is favored to win re-election is a clear warning to those worried about declining support for democratic institutions and values in the United States. The prospect of DeSantis’s re-election in November suggests that under certain circumstances the American electorate will tolerate, if not actively embrace, the abuse by domineering leaders of traditional political norms. A DeSantis victory would also demonstrate that the hostility of many mainstream voters to controversial liberal initiatives on social and cultural issues is strong enough to generate formidable backlash.

This Labor Day, let’s consider Quiet Quitting everything” via Stephanie Hayes of the Tampa Bay Times — Maybe you’ve heard the term “Quiet Quitting.” Or maybe you’ve Quietly Quit the internet, in which case, you are well on your way to blissful self-actualization. Some have argued that doing exactly what you’re paid for within the hours you’re paid to do it is not Quiet Quitting, but rather, just … work? And the rest is, like, abuse? Labor Day celebrates the labor movement and trade unions, which advocate for better conditions, hours and pay. Fighting worker exploitation is very much the current revolutionary vibe. Quiet Quitting could use reframing, though, an extension outside the office.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

NASA now targeting Saturday for Artemis I launch to the moon” via Emre Kelly of Florida Today — Officials said late Tuesday that teams were prepping for liftoff of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule at 2:17 p.m. EDT Saturday. There is a two-hour launch window. The massive rocket will become NASA’s most powerful when it ultimately takes flight. The mission will be the first flight in NASA’s Artemis project, a quest to put astronauts back on the moon for the first time since the Apollo program ended 50 years ago.

Is Artemis 1 a go? We’ll see Saturday.

Disney explores membership program like Amazon Prime to offer discounts and perks” via Jessica Toonkel and Sarah Krouse of The Wall Street Journal — The Walt Disney Co. is exploring a membership program that could offer discounts or special perks to encourage customers to spend more on its streaming services, theme parks, resorts and merchandise. The program would be somewhat akin to Amazon Prime, which offers advantages such as free shipping, discounts at Whole Foods, and a complementary streaming video service for a monthly or annual fee, the people said.

Disney World sets end date for 50th-anniversary celebration” via Ashley Carter of Bay News 9 — For the past 10 months, Disney World has been celebrating its 50th anniversary with new fireworks shows, new attractions, and a collection of golden character statues across its theme parks. The celebration, which began on Oct. 1, 2021, has included the opening of new attractions such as Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT. Now that Disney World is more than halfway through its 18-month celebration, the resort has revealed when it will all end. The 50th-anniversary celebration will end on March 31, 2023.

‘The only question isn’t who gets more votes’: Behind The New York Times’ new politics podcast” via Charlotte Klein of Vanity Fair — The Run-Up may sound familiar; this was the title given to the Times audio team’s debut series, a political show hosted by Michael Barbaro that chronicled the final three months of the 2016 election (and gave rise to The Daily, the Times’ flagship show). But according to the new show host Astead Herndon, the series is being resurrected largely in name only. “It felt like that version of a kind of strict horse race run-up isn’t the only question for right now,” he told me over coffee last week. “People stormed the Capitol. The only question isn’t who gets more votes at the ballot box.” The series wants to wrestle with murkier questions.

‘House of the Dragon’ shake-up: Co-showrunner Miguel Sapochnik leaving hit series” via James Hibberd and Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter — There’s been a big shake-up inside House of the Dragon: The HBO fantasy drama’s co-showrunner and director Sapochnik is stepping down from the freshly launched hit series. Sources say Sapochnik is exiting the show after pouring an exhausting three years of effort into the Game of Thrones prequel. Dragon co-creator Ryan Condal will now serve as the show’s sole showrunner and continue to work closely with co-creator George R.R. Martin. Sapochnik has also entered a first-look deal with HBO to develop new projects and will remain as an executive producer for the duration of the series.

‘Festival of Speed’ could bring British motor event to South Beach for Spring Break 2024” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — Miami Beach is looking at importing a major motorsport festival from England in March 2024 that would likely bring tens of thousands of visitors to South Beach during spring break. Representatives for the Goodwood Festival of Speed — which is held annually at the Duke of Richmond’s estate in England and attracts over 100,000 people — are pitching Miami Beach officials on the idea. “This is the kind of thing that attracts an enormous amount of worldwide attention,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told the Miami Herald. “It’s not unlike Art Basel.” The discussions reflect city officials’ efforts to change the party atmosphere of Spring Break, particularly along South Beach’s iconic Ocean Drive.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to James Ballas, the father of Dayton and Jett, the best interns in Tallahassee, and husband to our dear friend Erin Ballas. Also celebrating today is Rep. Emily Slosberg.

___

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

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