Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.18.22

Concealed Carry

Good Monday morning.

A new poll of Florida’s 13th Congressional District shows Democrat Eric Lynn with a lead over Republican Anna Paulina Luna.

Conducted by David Binder Research, the poll of 600 likely General Election voters found Lynn with 45% support compared to 43% for Luna.

Additionally, pollsters found Lynn’s supporters were more concrete — 38% said they would “definitely” be voting for him if he is the nominee in November compared to 35% who said they would “definitely” be voting for Luna.

Eric Lynn is holding a slight lead over Anna Paulina Luna for the open CD 13 seat.

Some other good news for Lynn: He’s leading Luna among third- and no-party voters 47%-35%.

Part of his lead comes down to social issues, with about three-quarters of those polled indicating they would be “much more likely” or “somewhat more likely” to support the candidate who will “keep politicians and government” from changing abortion rights or laws on same-sex marriage.


The poll has shortcomings, however, with no indication of how many Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters are included in the sample, nor any data on the turnout model used to calculate the top-line results.


@ELuttwack: Washington reporters followed President (Joe) Biden to Saudi Arabia not to learn anything from the country’s leaders or from the leaders of Egypt, Iraq or Jordan but to pursue The Washington Post’s vendetta over un incident de parcours, without any concern for US national interests

@JoshKrausar: Unusually weak fundraising numbers from Senate Republicans in the second quarter, despite the historically-strong environment for their party. Many Dems hitting fundraising records, by contrast. Do GOP donors not realize the majority is in reach for Senate Rs?

@BonchieRedState: The thing with (Ron) DeSantis‘ policies being so popular (per that NBC News poll) is that it didn’t happen by chance. He has a unique ability to not just throw punches, but land them in ways that persuade and build support. It’s not enough to “fight.” You’ve got to fight competently.

@Timodc: People who like Ron DeSantis are in my QTs and they are all very upset at the suggestion that their man express opposition to Donald Trump’s attempt to steal the last election. Will do my best to do as I’m told and believe that these people will behave better next time.

Tweet, tweet:

@Fineout: At @FlaDems Leadership Blue gala, there’s a stronger initial response to @NikkiFried than @CharlieCrist

@BiancaJoanie: @CarlosGSmith, introducing former Republican Charlie Crist at the LGBTQ caucus meeting today: “We all have a past, and we all come with baggage, myself included. Did I tell you I used to be straight? So is spaghetti before you boil it.”


36th Annual Environmental Permitting School — 1; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 2; Vote-by-mail mailing deadline for 2022 Primary — 3; ‘The Gray Man’ premiers in theaters and Netflix — 4; 2022 Sunshine Summit begins — 4; Deadline to register for 2022 Primary — 7; Beyoncé rolls-out seventh solo studio album ’Renaissance’ — 11; MLB trade deadline — 15; The 10-day Florida Python Challenge kicks off — 18; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 22; Early voting begins for Primaries — 26; FBHA’s annual conference, BHCon2022, begins — 30; FRLA’s Operations and Marketing Summit — 31; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 34; 2022 Florida Primary — 36; 2022 Florida Chamber Technology & Innovation Solution Summit — 44; ‘Andor’ premieres on Disney+ — 44; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 46; NFL Opening Night: LA Rams vs. Buffalo Bills — 52; 2022 Emmys — 56; JMI’s 2022 Tech & Innovation Summit begins — 59; Vote-by-mail mailing deadline for General Election — 80; Deadline to register for General Election — 85; 22-23 NHL season begins — 85; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 99; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 99; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 99; Early voting begins for General Election — 103; 2022 General Election — 113; ‘Black Panther 2′ premieres — 116; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 118; FITCon 2022 begins — 122; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 122; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 126; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 126; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 127; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 135; ‘Willow’ premieres on Disney+ — 135; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 151; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 214; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 232; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 249; 2023 Session Sine Die — 291; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 291; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 319; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 487; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 620; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 739.


Ron DeSantis’ education message is winning in battleground states, teacher union poll finds” via Marc Caputo and Jonathan Allen of NBC News — One of the national teacher unions that oppose him released a battleground-state survey showing voters approve of DeSantis’ education policy positions, and even some of his rhetoric. The American Federation of Teachers circulated the poll as a call to arms for its members and allies to emphasize more popular proposals like spending more on schools and reducing class sizes and de-emphasize fights that center on cultural issues.

One poll question found that voters, by a 32 percentage-point margin, said they were more likely to vote for candidates who believe public schools should focus less on teaching race and more on core subjects. By 27 points, they said schools should be banned from teaching sexual orientation and gender identity to kids in kindergarten through third grade. By 28 points, they said transgender athletes should be banned from competing in girls’ sports.

Many of Ron DeSantis’ positions on education resonate with voters, a warning for Democrats.

The same poll suggests DeSantis has been smart about where to draw the line. Most voters said they would be less likely to back candidates who want to prosecute teachers for instructing students on critical race theory and gender identity. The same goes for candidates who want books removed from school libraries.

One big takeaway from the poll is that Democrats are on firmer political ground when they talk about teaching the history of race relations in the U.S. than when they fight to ban teaching about sexuality and gender identity.

Meanwhile … “Red states are winning the post-pandemic economy” via Josh Mitchell of The Wall Street Journal — By many measures, red states, those that lean Republican, have recovered faster economically than Democratic-leaning blue ones, with workers and employers moving from the coasts to the middle of the country and Florida. Since February 2020, the month before the pandemic began, the share of all U.S. jobs located in red states has grown by more than half a percentage point. Red states have added 341,000 jobs over that time, while blue states were still short 1.3 million jobs as of May.

— 2022 —

DeSantis calls on conservative ‘Moms’ at national summit to fight ‘leftist’ agenda” via Laura Cassels of Florida Phoenix — DeSantis called on hundreds of members of “Moms for Liberty,” gathered in Tampa Friday to fight against Florida schools that, he claims, are undergoing “leftist indoctrination,” a “leftist agenda,” and “sexualization of children.” As the keynote speaker, the Governor won repeated cheers and standing ovations. “They cannot wait to vote for him for President,” said Moms for Liberty co-founder Tiffany Justice.

Tweet, tweet:

Casey DeSantis talks school board endorsements with Moms for Liberty” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — DeSantis spoke at a lunch event at the Moms for Liberty summit in Tampa, discussing her and Ron DeSantis’ children and home life before delving into campaign politics and the role of groups like Moms for Liberty. DeSantis was asked what could be done to harness conservative mothers’ political activism to make a difference for her husband’s electoral success, and she said one of those things was learning more about what’s been done and what DeSantis intends to do on education.

—“‘Moms for Liberty’ mobilize for school board races — with DeSantis in tow” via Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO

—“One Florida, two visions as Republicans and Democrats attend dueling Tampa conferences” via Emily Mahoney and Bianca Padro Ocasio of the Miami Herald

—“Rick Scott to Moms for Liberty: Top candidates depending on down-ballot success” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics

Happening today — DeSantis will be the featured speaker at the Duval County Republican Party’s Statesman of the Year Dinner, 7 p.m., Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, 225 East Coastline Dr., Jacksonville.

Trump fundraising slows for first time in 18 months, trails DeSantis” via Marco Margaritoff of the HuffPost — While his name and image continue to dominate the Republican Party, his grip on voters appears to be loosening. The first half of 2022 was the first time since he left office 18 months ago that Trump’s fundraising in six months failed to exceed $50 million. This decline starkly contrasts with the fundraising growth of other Republican candidates, such as DeSantis. The report revealed Trump’s political action committees raised $18 million between April and June, which was about $2 million less than in the three months before

Las Vegas tycoon who believes aliens can be found on Earth gave DeSantis $10 million” via Zac Anderson of the Tallahassee Democrat — DeSantis’ re-election campaign received a $10 million contribution this month from a Las Vegas tycoon who believes aliens can be found on Earth and has funded research into the afterlife and paranormal activity. Robert Bigelow is now DeSantis’ largest individual donor. He made a fortune from the Budget Suites of America extended-stay rental chain, which he founded in 1987. He put $350 million in profits from that business into Bigelow Aerospace. Bigelow said he is “totally convinced” that aliens exist. He also founded an institute to study the paranormal and purchased the 480-acre Skinwalker Ranch to investigate reports of paranormal activity on the property.

‘The choice is between common sense and utter lunacy’: Marco Rubio predicts flood of new support for Republicans” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — During his keynote speech inside the Robarts Arena at the Sarasota County Fairgrounds, Rubio called unity against “lunacy” and predicted some of the cultural movements sweeping the nation will result in a strong showing for the GOP this year. “Every single one of you knows someone who has never voted for a Republican in their lives, but they’re going to now, not because they agree with us on every issue … but because we agree on what we can agree on. And what we can agree on is common sense,” he said. “The choice in American politics today is no longer simply left and right, or Republican and Democrat … the choice is between common sense and complete and utter lunacy.”

GOP ‘naked and afraid,’ J.B. Pritzker says at Florida Democrats’ Leadership Blue Gala” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Republicans are “naked and afraid,” Illinois’ Pritzker said, and that’s what’s driving their policies of fear, he told Florida Democrats at their annual Leadership Blue Gala. Dems gathered in Tampa showing every bit of the energy and motivation it will take if they want to upend the conventional wisdom this year that sees wins for Republicans up and down the ballot. Pritzker is a man who knows something about beating incumbent Republicans by knocking out then-Gov. Bruce Rauner by nearly 16 points in 2018, spoke to motivate Democrats and to center their purpose.

J.B. Pritzker knows a thing or two about beating Republican incumbents.

Charlie Crist, Nikki Fried each make their case to be Governor as Democrats meet in Tampa” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — Democrats seemed to get the annual gathering they wanted Saturday: a sold-out gala with a roster of high-profile speakers, excited attendees motivated to challenge DeSantis and Sen. Rubio and a conference of conservative moms meeting across the street to draw a contrast. Still, tensions were brewing and escalating between the top contenders vying to run against DeSantis. Some of the tension between the campaigns was fairly innocuous.

Anna Eskamani, Joshua Simmons bring the jokes to Florida Democrats’ gala” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Eskamani and Coral Springs Vice Mayor Simmons had what one could call vibes duty at the Party’s Leadership Blue Gala, responsible for keeping things upbeat and moving along. Simmons kicked things off by telling the crowd they had a couple housekeeping matters. “If you’re looking for the book-burning party room, that’s across the street,” he said, referencing the Moms for Liberty national summit that drew DeSantis, Scott, Attorney General Ashley Moody and two former Trump administration Cabinet Secretaries. “For all the renters here, I’m sorry to tell you that since you have started dinner, your rent has increased by about 10%,” Eskamani said. “But don’t worry, Ron DeSantis is going to ban critical race theory again for the fourth time. I’m sure that will help. Never let them know your next move.”

To defeat DeSantis, Democrats are coalescing around Crist and the Joe Biden playbook” via Steve Contorno of CNN — Like Biden in 2020, Crist is running on reestablishing civility, a bet that enough independent and moderate GOP voters are exhausted by the divisive politics of the incumbent Republican administration. Crist is playing up his bipartisan background, at times, even leaning into his Republican roots, in hopes voters will rally around a familiar face with a track record of working across the aisle. A year ago, Crist’s entrance into the race was met with a sigh from many state Democrats ready for younger blood and fresh faces. But as mail ballots for the Aug. 23 Primary are sent out in many Florida counties, party forces have coalesced around Crist’s strategy.

Working class and Hispanic voters are losing interest in the party of abortion, gun control and the Jan. 6 hearings” via Ruy Teixeira of The Liberal Patriot — Democrats believe that campaigning against the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, arguing for more gun control in the wake of recent mass shootings and highlighting Trump’s anti-democratic malfeasance through the Jan. 6 hearings can turn the tide in their favor. Democrats have a 21-point lead in the generic Congressional ballot among these voters. Shockingly, white college Democratic support in this poll is actually higher than support among all nonwhite voters. This is remarkable and has much to do with anemic Hispanic support for Democrats, who favor Democrats over Republicans by a scant 3 points.

—“’Nobody is coming to save us’: Florida Dems struggle ahead of August Primary” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO

Happening today — Former Rep. Adam Hattersley, a Democrat running for CFO, will speak at a meeting of the Miami Beach Democratic Club, 7 p.m. Information here.


Scott leads the Republican bid to regain the Senate. Those candidates are struggling.” via John Kennedy of USA Today — Stumbles by high-profile Republican U.S. Senate candidates are casting a cloud over the party’s chances of regaining control of the chamber this fall, heightening pressure on Scott, the man in charge of the takeover effort.

While Biden’s sinking approval numbers bolster GOP prospects of flipping the U.S. House in midterm elections, polls suggest the Senate is looking more likely to remain in Democratic hands.

Republican contenders are struggling in Georgia, New Hampshire, Nevada and Arizona, where Scott has promised victories.

Is Rick Scott up to the task of leading the GOP to victory in the Senate?

For Scott, personally, a setback could be profound. Elected to the Senate in 2018 after two terms as Florida’s Governor, Scott has seen his successor, Gov. Ron DeSantis, emerge as a Republican star, coming into even sharper focus as a likely 2024 White House contender.

A Senate majority — and GOP hero status for Scott — is certainly within reach.

But failing to guide the party to a majority from his post as Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee would tarnish Scott, who has said little about his future, other than that he plans to run for re-election in two years.­

But his performance as Chair of the NRSC has drawn questions from fellow Republicans and outright ridicule from Democrats.

— MORE 2022 —

Debate roster causes disputes ahead of GOP’s Sunshine Summit” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Christine Quinn is calling on Joe Gruters, Chair of the Republican Party of Florida, to reconsider including her in the upcoming debates at the 2022 Sunshine Summit. Quinn is the only GOP Primary candidate not invited to the debate. Another candidate, Erick Aguilar, running in Florida’s 4th Congressional District, is also facing scrutiny over attendance. Aguilar faces state Sen. Aaron Bean in the CD 4 debate.

Christine Quinn is the only GOP candidate not invited to the Sunshine Summit debates. Image via Facebook.

GOP congressional candidate Erick Aguilar has history of party switching” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Aguilar loves pretending to be someone he’s not. It’s lucrative for him. Aguilar has been funding his campaign for the Republican nomination in Florida’s 4th Congressional District by bilking seniors. His strategy is simple: Pretend to be Trump or DeSantis. Ask for money. Profit. It’s basically identity theft. But Aguilar is also going through an identity crisis. According to voter registration records obtained by Florida Politics, Aguilar has flipped parties twice in the past decade. Until the mid-2010s, he had been a Republican registered to vote in Duval. However, in April 2014, records show he switched his affiliation to Democrat.

John Mica endorses former staffer Rusty Roberts in CD 7” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Former U.S. Rep. Mica wants his former Chief of Staff to take over his old job. The Winter Park Republican endorsed Roberts in Florida’s 7th Congressional District. “Things are so bad that we need someone who can go to Washington and make a difference,” Mica said. “That’s why I am endorsing today Rusty Roberts for Congress.” Roberts, a former Chief of Staff for Mica and former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, filed in CD 7 in March. His campaign released a video of Mica voicing support alongside Roberts. At the event, Mica laid out a case for change in Washington.

Congressional hopeful Anna Paulina Luna sued over dog bite” via William March of Tampa Bay Times — CD 13 candidate Luna, her spouse and her campaign are being sued by the family of a 9-year-old boy who was allegedly bit by the dog of Luna’s husband. The family is also suing the sponsors of a fishing tournament where the incident occurred last November. The lawsuit is seeking more than $30,000 for medical treatment, scarring, pain, and “mental anguish” after the boy received 11 stitches.

Ben Sorensen faces FEC fine, Jared Moskowitz crosses $1M in CD 23 race” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Federal fundraising reports for congressional races were due before 11:59 p.m. Friday, and Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor Sorensen failed to file his report by the deadline. The missing report from Sorensen is the first the Democrat was required to file joining the race for Florida’s 23rd Congressional District in April. He faces significant fines from the Federal Election Commission. Without the Q2 fundraising report, he is unable to prove any significant monetary support.

Tracie Davis voted for NRA-backed legislation during time in House” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Florida Senate candidate Davis routinely calls for stricter gun control. But as a state Representative, she supported legislation backed by the National Rifle Association. During the 2017 Legislative Session, Davis supported a bill (HB 965), passed by the House but failed in the Senate, that would’ve cut taxes on fingerprint services required for background checks, making obtaining a concealed carry permit cheaper. The NRA touted the vote as a “win for gun owners” when the House took up the measure. Davis faces Jacksonville City Council member Reggie Gaffney in a Democratic Primary.

Happening today — Rep. Geraldine Thompson holds a fundraiser for her Senate bid, 5:30 p.m., The Monroe Restaurant, 448 North Terry Ave., Orlando.

Sarasota Republicans endorse Joe Gruters” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Republican Executive Committee voted unanimously to endorse Sen. Gruters, who has served for more than a decade as the official Chair of the county party and has served nearly four years as Chair of the Republican Party of Florida. Gruters is facing a Republican Primary challenge from Michael Johnson, an activist with Grassroots for America. Jack Brill, acting Chair of the county party, said local Republicans need to rally together behind Gruters.

House candidate Jake Hoffman lives large in fast cars, traveling worldwide and pulling PPP loans” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Two days after Christmas in 2020, Hoffman took to Instagram to show off a birthday present to himself: An Aston Martin V-8 Vantage. “It’s probably not the best idea to stunt at the end of 2020 with all the pain and suffering across the world,” Hoffman acknowledged in the post. But sharing a rags-to-riches story, he notes since the successful companies he operated online — Hoffman co-founded Invasion Digital Media — pandemic conditions that closed down offices throughout the world had not his bottom line so hard. “While 2020 has been tough on a lot of people, if you’ve spent the last decade fortifying, building and investing in multiple 100% digital companies, this year was actually pretty great, as taboo as that is to say,” he said.

Ashley Gantt again drubs HD 109 incumbent in fundraising, spending war” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Lawyer Gantt again outpaced incumbent Rep. James Bush III in fundraising and spending as the pair approach the House District 109 Democratic Primary. As of June 30, Gantt’s campaign had raised nearly $67,000 since filing in March. Of that, she had $34,000 remaining. Gantt spent a campaign-high $18,000 in June. Bush, meanwhile, took in just $2,500 in yet another lackluster month of fundraising. Limited spending has kept his war chest full at nearly $36,000. HD 109 is a Democratic-leaning district spanning north-central Miami-Dade County.

Ashley Gantt posts another blockbuster month.

Alina García financially outpaces HD 115 opponent in June with support from GOP, firefighters” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Although Republican García faces Democratic opponent Christie Cantin Davis for House District 115, when it comes to finances, she’s far ahead. García, in June, added to her substantial war chest — $411,000 by the end of the month — by collecting more than $40,000 between her campaign account and political committee, Florida Always First. Her largest gain was a $25,000 infusion from the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee. Cantin Davis, who filed for the HD 115 race June 6, has added just $2,000 to her campaign coffers. All of it was her own money.

No major problems with ballot drop boxes in 2020” via Anthony Izaguirre and Christina A. Cassidy of The Associated Press — The expanded use of drop boxes for mailed ballots during the 2020 election did not lead to any widespread problems, according to a survey of state election officials across the U.S. that revealed no cases of fraud, vandalism or theft that could have affected the results. The findings from both Republican- and Democratic-controlled states run contrary to claims made by Trump and his allies, who have intensely criticized their use and falsely claimed they were a target for fraud.


DeSantis’s ‘anti-racist’ mandate leads university to scrub websites” via Penny Starr of Breitbart — DeSantis signed into law the “Stop WOKE Act,” which took effect July 1 and laid out the restrictions on how race is taught in schools. UCF spokesperson Chad Binette said the school recently removed departmental statements that could be seen as “potentially inconsistent with our commitment to creating a welcoming environment — one where faculty objectively engage students in robust, scholarly discussions that expand their knowledge and empower them to freely express their views and form their own perspectives.”

Kids’ coronavirus vaccines are hard to find in Florida. Many blame DeSantis.” via Lori Rozsa of the Miami Herald — When coronavirus vaccines for infants and young children were authorized for the first time last month, DeSantis warned parents against the “baby jabs,” saying regulators had done insufficient testing and trials. Still, he said he wouldn’t stand in parents’ way if they chose to vaccinate their kids. “You are free to choose,” he assured them. Florida parents say it hasn’t turned out that way. Many are struggling to find places to vaccinate their children, and they blame DeSantis, noting he was the only Governor to refuse to preorder the vaccines and to prohibit county health departments from distributing or administering the shots.

Happening today — The Demographic Estimating Conference will discuss Florida’s changing population, 10 a.m., Room 117, Knott Building.

How Pete Antonacci put the heat on FDLE” via Steve Bousquet of the Orlando Sentinel — Antonacci has held many jobs over a long Florida career: Deputy Attorney General, State Attorney, regional water manager, a confidant of Scott, Broward Supervisor of Elections and the first director of the state Office of Election Crimes and Security. DeSantis just put Antonacci in charge of a politically inspired operation that critics see as a frightening plot to intimidate voters, but early reviews of his hiring are guardedly optimistic. With carefully chosen words, the new head of the state election supervisors’ group, Tallahassee’s Mark Earley, said Antonacci knows “the need for a reserved and judicious application of the power this new office wields.”

Disney, Universal file vague injury reports. Florida lawmakers let them” via Scott Maxwell of The Orlando Sentinel — Agriculture Commissioner Fried, whose office regulates ride safety, wants better disclosure for theme park injuries, saying she needs legislators to pass new laws to make it happen. But legislators told the Sentinel they’re waiting on Fried’s office to take the lead. While theme park rides aren’t necessarily more dangerous than most activities, the public doesn’t really have a way of knowing exactly what’s happening, injury-wise. For the past two decades, lawmakers have vowed to make reforms after an injury is reported, but then they don’t. Meanwhile, those same lawmakers keep on taking campaign contributions from the parks. So, while Florida politicians claim to agree that injury reports need more transparency, they just never seem to make it happen.

Is medical marijuana legal? Yes, but why do weed arrests still happen?” via Gary White of The Lakeland Ledger — An arrest for possessing a small amount of marijuana can still have lingering negative consequences. Michael Minardi, a Tampa defense lawyer specializing in cases of marijuana possession, said Florida’s official policies on the drug are inherently contradictory. “The biggest thing that’s absurd about the issue is that Florida still considers it a Schedule 1 substance, which states it has no medicinal value, it’s unsafe under doctor supervision and it’s highly addictive, which is kind of ridiculous when we have over 713,000 medical cannabis patients,” Minardi said.


Trump’s announcement bomb & Mark Meadows’ case of the willies” via Tara Palmeri and Julia Ioffe of Puck — If Trump announces his run before the midterms, however, DeSantis will be undercut. Remember, he has to run for re-election in Florida first, and Trump will be able to proposition the donor class to choose among the candidates. (Most of them do not want to give money this early on, especially before midterms.) On top of that, Trump will have a chorus of candidates that he endorsed on the trail saying they’re all in for Trump. This is the problem with DeSantis — he’s Trump-made and has to run for re-election. But as I’ve been reporting for weeks, and Trump finally said himself to New York, it’s not if, it’s when. Everyone around him is just standing by and getting the books ready — including the woman managing his political operation, Susie Wiles, who looks increasingly poised to run his campaign.

Why would Donald Trump jump the gun on a 2024 presidential bid? Two words: Ron DeSantis.

Why the Libertarian Party bowed to MAGA just like the Republican Party” via Jonathan V. Last of Bulwark+ — The party’s core active membership is in the low five figures, somewhere between the Proud Boys and the Democratic Socialists of America. It has a decent organizational infrastructure with a chapter in every state and many local precincts too. Under the direction of the so-called Mises Caucus, the LP has become home to those who don’t have qualms about declaring Holocaust-denying racists “fellow travelers” and don’t think bigots are necessarily disqualified from the party. The caucus is also reversing the party’s long-standing commitment to open immigration policies in favor of border enforcement.

Roger Stone, wife agree to pay $2.1 million to settle IRS tax case, but where will the money come from?” via Dan Christensen of Florida Bulldog — Stone, a longtime political ally of Trump and a subject of last week’s Jan. 6 committee hearing, has agreed to pay more than $2.1 million to settle the government’s tax case against him and his wife, Nydia. The big question now: Where is Stone getting the money to pay off the IRS? Three years ago, after Stone claimed he was broke because of the Robert Mueller investigation into alleged interference in the 2016 election, Money Inc. estimated Stone’s net worth at only $50,000. The proposed settlement was approved at the highest levels of the Justice Department, as Stone is a subject in the department’s ongoing criminal investigation of sedition and conspiracy.


Alcee Hastings campaign account shutting down — after giving his widow its last $23K” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Fifteen months after the death of U.S. Rep. Hastings, the long-serving Congressman’s campaign account expending its remaining funds and shutting down. One of its last expenditures was a transfer of more than $23,000 to Hastings’ widow, Patricia Williams, for no listed campaign purpose. Williams — a longtime staffer of Hastings’ with whom he had a more than four-decade-long relationship, culminating in their 2019 marriage — and her daughter, Maisha, received nearly $30,000 from Hastings’ campaign account. The campaign listed the money Maisha collected as going to clean up and consolidation work, including the cost of storing and disposing of campaign materials.

In Broward School Board race, a lawyer challenges the mother of a Parkland shooting victim” via Jimena Tavel of The Miami Herald — Incumbent School Board member Lori Alhadeff faces attorney Kimberly Coward in the race for the District 4 seat on the Broward County School Board. Alhadeff was pushed into politics after her 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, was killed in the 2018 Parkland shooting. That same year, Alhadeff ran and won the District 4 School Board seat. The Broward Teachers Union has endorsed Alhadeff, who has raised nearly $100,000 compared to Coward’s nearly $20,000. While on the Board, Alhadeff pushed for “Alyssa’s Law,” which the Legislature passed in 2020 and mandates panic alarms at every school. Like Alhadeff, Coward wants to strengthen school safety and security, as well as address mental health issues. The two will face off in the Aug. 23 Primary of the Broward School Board elections.

Lori Alhadeff’s 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, was killed during the school shooting in Parkland. That may be a tough narrative to beat on the campaign trail.

Palm Beach school district pulls LGBTQ support guide from its website” via Kate Payne of WLRN — The School District of Palm Beach County has removed from its website a guide detailing best practices on how to support LGBTQ students and staff. The move comes as districts across the state are grappling with how to comply with House Bill 1557, which critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” law. The legislation went into effect July 1. The second edition of Palm Beach schools’ LGBTQ+ Critical Support Guide, dated 2021, is more than 100 pages long. “We feel this guide is a critical tool at a critical time. All young people — including those who are LGBTQ+ — have the right to feel safe and secure in the schools they attend,” a summary of the guide reads. “Students who feel accepted at school are more highly motivated, engaged in learning, and committed to achieving the best possible education.”

School Board candidates campaigning at gun shows in Palm Beach County. Is this the new norm?” via Giuseppe Sabella and Katherine Kokal of The Palm Beach Post — Attendees at last weekend’s Florida Gun and Knife Show at the South Florida Fairgrounds could browse firearms, purchase boxes of ammunition, learn about the latest gun accessories or pick up yard signs and flyers for Palm Beach County school board candidates. District 6 contenders Amanda Silvestri and Jennifer Showalter hosted tables at the recent gun show. And though last week’s event raised eyebrows, it wasn’t the first time school board candidates have advertised at gun shows this year.

Investigation: Broward shelter director turns away dogs, outraging critics” via Susannah Bryan and David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — On a rainy day along Interstate 95, a woman rescues a stray dog and is left fuming when the Broward County animal shelter resists taking in the homeless animal. Another dog is denied entry after being rescued from drowning in a canal. And in one Fort Lauderdale backyard, dogs starve to death despite repeated visits from a county animal care investigator who fails to take them away. All three scenarios have played out under the tenure of Emily Wood, the latest director of Broward Animal Care and Adoption, the county’s tax-supported pet shelter. Under Wood’s leadership, critics say, the shelter has been turning away dogs that should be taken in, leaving many roaming the streets.


Will a shaky financial history doom the Hillsborough school’s tax?” via John Hill of Tampa Bay Times — For the past decade, the Hillsborough County School Board has dipped into cash reserves and shifted tens of millions of dollars from capital accounts to cover payroll and other routine expenses. In all, the deficit spending over 10 years totaled more than $550 million. Now, voters will be asked to approve an additional school property tax, which Superintendent Addison Davis insists would keep the district’s cash reserves above the 3% state-mandated minimum. With ballots going out next week, Davis and his supporters have only days to sharpen the messaging. The district is working to rebuild its balance sheet, but with the tax vote looming, even longtime school advocates are weighing their support for public education against the district’s shaky financial history.

Emily Bonilla proposes raises for Orange Commissioners, citing ‘sacrifices’ serving the public” via Stephen Hudak of The Orlando Sentinel — District 5 Orange County Commissioner Bonilla proposed the Commission raise their yearly salaries from $88,000 to $106,000 “for the important work and sacrifices to our lives we make daily to serve the public.” “Some of the Commissioners work 60 to 80-hour weeks … have given up their careers and sacrifice time with their children,” Bonilla said. Her suggested salary raise is according to a population-based, state compensation formula rather than the current annual salary, derived from an adjustment methodology created in a pay ordinance, last updated in 1996. She also pointed out that Commissioners in Osceola ($91,103) and Seminole ($91,989) are paid more though their counties are less populous. Bonilla said the higher raise “definitely will not break the bank.”

Emily Bonilla suggests better pay for the ‘sacrifices’ Commissioners make.

UCF AD: ‘We’ve allowed education to be devalued in college sports’” via Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel — Education has been lost in the current narrative about college athletics. All we talk about today is how many millions more in media-rights money will a school make if it jumps from one conference to another. Or how much more annual salary a coach will make on his multiyear, mega-million-dollar contract extension. Or how much “NIL” money will the rival booster collectives ante up to lure the next 5-star recruit from the IMG Academy. What happened to the true mission of intercollegiate athletics? What happened to the original concept of college sports as an extolled pathway on an otherwise dead-end street for high school athletes seeking a college degree?

Seizures, loss of consciousness among theme park injuries in newest report” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Several guests had seizures or lost consciousness at Disney World and Universal on a variety of rides, according to the Department of Agriculture, which released the new theme park injury report Friday. Theme parks are only required to disclose when someone was hurt or sick on a ride and needed at least 24 hours of hospitalization, limiting the state’s injury report. It omits details and full accounts, so it’s impossible to know exactly what happened. Some injuries are described only as “head pain,” “knee pain,” or “felt ill.” Most reported accounts include individuals with preexisting conditions. Busch Gardens, SeaWorld Orlando and Legoland Florida did not report any injuries.

Shooting game at ICON Park paused after online criticism, officials say” via Amanda Rabines and David Harris of the Orlando Sentinel — Following criticism about the sensibility of a new sniper-like shooting game on the Wheel at ICON Park, the theme park decided to pause the “current version” of the attraction, a news release Saturday said. A statement said the Bullseye Blast game was “well-received” and “satisfied guests,” but some questioned if the game was the right sentiment in the light of a spate of mass shootings throughout the country. By adding an extra $5.95 to tickets, riders were given laser blasters and instructions to aim and shoot at 50 different targets throughout the park during the 18-minute up-and-down circle ride, which towers over Orlando’s heavily visited tourism corridor.

Judge denies ‘red-flag’ request over gun at a Lakeland high school” via Gary White of the Lakeland Ledger — Three weeks before the slaughter at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, a school resource deputy at Kathleen High School received an anonymous tip that a student had brought a gun to campus. The deputy found a pack that contained a Glock 42, a subcompact, semi-automatic pistol loaded with four rounds. The deputy also discovered two boxes of ammunition holding 43 rounds. Two weeks after the incident, a request for a risk-protection order went before Judge Ellen Masters. Masters denied the petition.


Did Lake Ray profit off taxpayers? He kept legislative office for years in a building he owned” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Property records show Ray, a Jacksonville Republican, owned an office building in Hickman Place where his district office was located from 2011 to 2016. Expense reports from the time show the move cost the taxpayers. Ray’s office paid a rent of $5,756 a quarter in order to use the office space. Ray served in the House from 2008 to 2016. During his first two terms, his regional office was located on Regency Square. But when Ray’s office made the decision to move in 2011, it was to property Ray owned. The decision to operate an office there raises serious questions about whether Ray personally profited from his time in public office at taxpayer expense.

Did Lake Ray profit off Florida taxpayers?

Escambia County plagued by fentanyl: ‘We’re being compared to Huntington, West Virginia’” via Colin Warren-Hicks of the Pensacola News Journal — Fentanyl overdoses in Escambia County are doubling every year. How bad is that? “If you’re not familiar, we’re being compared to Huntington, West Virginia,” Escambia County EMS Chief David Torsell told the Escambia County School Board on Thursday. “Huntington, West Virginia, was the No. 1 place with drug overdoses for many, many years.” This week, Torsell was invited to attend a School Board workshop meeting to fill in Board members on the ever-multiplying problems local health care providers are encountering related to fentanyl-induced overdoses. While fentanyl has yet to cause major issues within local schools, Torsell’s intent Thursday was to take a proactive step toward keeping it that way.


The Democrats’ failure is complete” via Jonathan Chait of New York magazine — It would be unfair to measure the Democrats against the full-bloom version of their most ambitious measure. They deliberately set out the most ambitious version of their agenda at the beginning in the understanding it would have to shrink — and indeed, not all the components had the administrative capacity to be enacted anyway. Razor-tight margins of control in both chambers of Congress always meant compromise would be necessary.

At the same time, by realistic or even minimal standards of performance, this two-year term, almost certain to be the last period of Democratic-controlled government for the foreseeable future, has been a failure. The ramifications of this defeat — political, economic, and ecological — will reverberate.

The official cause of death for the Democrats’ domestic ambitions was a decision by Joe Manchin to back away from measures he had previously supported, citing rising prices. “Sen. Manchin,” according to his spokesperson, “believes it’s time for leaders to put political agendas aside, reevaluate and adjust to the economic realities the country faces to avoid taking steps that add fuel to the inflation fire.”


Biden hangs on to re-election hopes, but troubles mount against him” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — It’s not his fault, there really wasn’t anything he could have done about it, but the numbers are adding up against Biden seeking a second term. All the economic and political indicators add up to a perfect storm confronting Biden, with no redeeming favorable factors to give Democrats hope. Only two modern Presidents eligible for re-election have failed to go for it. And after Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson yielded to the inevitability of plummeting poll numbers, their party lost the White House in 1952 and 1968. The demise of those Democrats followed severe losses in Congress, although LBJ and Truman had fewer midterm losses than the Democrats look likely to lose in the fall.

Is the Democrats’ problem Biden or inflation?” via Perry Bacon Jr. of The Washington Post — Biden is very unpopular right now, and that’s prompting prominent Democrats to increasingly complain that he is damaging the whole party’s electoral prospects, with some even suggesting he shouldn’t seek re-election. But what if his unusually low standing is just the result of inflation, particularly high gas prices? The strong consensus was that if inflation were at normal levels and not constantly in the news, Biden’s approval rating would probably be between 41 and 45%, with his disapproval number between 51 and 54%. Those estimates suggest that about half of Biden’s negative net approval rating is caused by high inflation.

Biden’s fist bump with Mohammed bin Salman was a crass betrayal” via Karen Attiah of The Washington Post — Biden just fist-bumped a man who has my friend and colleague’s blood on his hands. It’s not a stretch to say that when bin Salman began his ascent to power in 2015, he made his mark through fear and repression. He launched a bloody war in Yemen, kidnapped the Lebanese prime minister, blockaded Qatar, imprisoned critics, and, most notoriously, orchestrated the operation that murdered Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi. On the campaign trail, Biden promised us all that he would hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its crimes and make the country a “pariah.”

Why no one believes American rhetoric about democracy” via Ben Rhodes of The Atlantic — Biden is by no means the first American President who has struggled to reconcile a declared commitment to human rights with a more utilitarian definition of American interests. Because gas prices are punishing American consumers, any chance of increasing oil production may seem worth pursuing, particularly amid a midterm election campaign stacked against Democrats. For these reasons, promises to make the kingdom a “pariah” while “putting human rights at the center of American foreign policy” have been set aside. A review of Saudi policy since MBS’s ascent in 2015 reveals how out of step the kingdom’s policies have been with stated U.S. interests such as nuclear nonproliferation, political stability, and the survival of democratic civil society across the Middle East and North Africa.

If DeSantis is actually less dangerous than Trump, maybe he should say so” via Tim Miller of The Bulwark — To be clear — saying someone is less of an existential threat to democracy than Trump might be the faintest praise ever uttered in American politics. It doesn’t carry with it any rejection of the many legitimate concerns that we small-“l” liberals have about a potential DeSantis administration. It merely acknowledges that Trump’s psychopathy is so extreme as to put him in a category all of his own. And as such, anything that keeps him from darkening the halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue again is almost certainly an improvement. What has struck me about this debate is less the hypotheticals than what is missing from it: any acknowledgment from DeSantis or his staff that they believe he would be less dangerous than Trump.

The demise of judicial merit selection” via (Ret.) Justice Harry Lee Anstead for the Tallahassee Democrat — Under this model, the Governor gave up his sole authority to fill judicial vacancies and shared it with non-partisan Nominating Commissions, which required changes to Florida’s constitution and general law. Nine- member non-partisan Nominating Commissions were formed for the courts. The key to the system’s success was in the makeup of the Commissions — keeping them non-partisan: three appointees by the Florida Bar, three by the Governor, and three non-lawyer citizens selected by the other six members. Recently an applicant who lacked the minimum years of practice required to be eligible to serve as a Supreme Court Justice was never-the-less nominated by the Nominating Commission to serve on the Court. Despite this patent flaw, the ineligible candidate was appointed by the Governor.

As the planet cooks, climate stalls as a political issue” via Jonathan Weisman and Jazmine Ulloa of The New York Times — News that even a stripped-down compromise to address a warming planet appeared to be dead was greeted in Washington by brutal condemnations from environmentalists and Democrats, some accusing Sen. Joe Manchin III of dooming human life on Earth. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington, called Manchin’s decision “nothing short of catastrophic.” But an electorate already struggling with inflation, exhausted by COVID-19 and adjusting to tectonic changes like the end of constitutionally protected abortions, may give the latest Democratic defeat a resigned shrug.

Double standard: The Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post demand transparency in one court case, but ignore another” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — The Herald and the Post claim to be fierce advocates for transparency and intervened in a case this week to unseal records involving some local South Florida personalities who are largely unknown across the rest of the state. Yet, in a different case with similarly sealed court records that were asked to be kept secret by the politically connected Everglades Foundation, neither newspaper lifted a finger. Why not? The case involves the Foundation accusing its former chief scientist — a former media darling — of stealing “secret documents” and “destroying research” that has almost certainly played some role in shaping public policy in recent years. Yet, despite the obvious public interest, neither the Herald nor the Post have paid much attention to the Everglades Foundation matter.


— ALOE —

’Top Gun: Maverick’ enters the pantheon of conservative fan fiction” via Blake Hounshell and Marc Tracy of The New York Times — There is a long tradition in which conservatives seize upon a cultural artifact produced by the entertainment industry, which is generally seen as left-leaning, and claim it for themselves. “This goes back years,” said Doug Heye, a Republican consultant, “and included when we had a Hollywood actor or a reality TV star for President. They feel besieged by the culture. That feeling has only increased, and it’s increased because there’s even more substance behind it today.” When “Top Gun: Maverick” entered this culture war with its uncomplicated, feel-good patriotism — it is, among other things, a movie about how awesome U.S. Navy pilots can be, particularly when fighting America’s enemies — conservatives’ sense of alignment arrived naturally. “It’s political in being apolitical,” said Christian Toto, a conservative film critic.

‘Top Gun’ is the blockbuster hit conservatives needed.


Happy birthday to one of our favorite members of the Tampa Bay delegation, state Rep. and congressional candidate Jackie Toledo, as well as Rep. Allison Tant, Maureen Ahern, and our brilliant friend Dex Fabian.


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

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