Good Monday morning.
Stephanie Smith, a veteran of AT&T, Uber and Simply — and an all-around incredible person — is joining TECO Energy as vice president of State and Regional Affairs.
After taking the summer to contemplate her next move, Smith begins today. She’ll oversee government affairs for Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas and will manage external affairs and community investment.
“Stephanie Smith’s strategic counsel and extensive experience will guide our outreach efforts to government officials, community leaders and other key stakeholders,” said David Nicholson, vice president of Legal, General Counsel and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer for Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas. “We have a great story to tell. We’re well on our way to achieving our vision of a net-zero carbon future, and we’re excited to have Stephanie as part of the team to help us communicate our progress to stakeholders.”
Smith has nearly 20 years of experience in public affairs, government relations and communications. Smith has worked in Florida, Washington D.C. and the United Kingdom on public affairs strategies, advancing regulation and navigating complex regulatory issues for Fortune 500 companies, the experience she’ll bring with her to TECO.
“I’m inspired to join the TECO Energy team,” Smith said. “Utilities are not only essential to Floridians’ quality of life, but they also power Florida’s economy. TECO Energy plays such an important role in preparing and responding to disasters, while shaping the future of energy for our state and nation. I look forward to taking on the opportunities and challenges that come with this new role.”
Smith previously worked in the Executive Office of the Governor for two administrations: Govs. Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush.
Smith currently serves as chair of CareerSource Florida as a Gov. Ron DeSantis appointee. She is also an active member of the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors and the Florida Alliance Against Human Trafficking Board of Directors.
U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar leads challenger Annette Taddeo in Florida’s 27th Congressional District 50% to 44%, according to a recent poll from Republican polling firm Cygnal, commissioned by Salazar’s Leadership for a Strong America PAC.
Salazar’s lead is within the poll’s margin of error and includes 6% of voters who are still undecided.
The poll, taken Oct. 9-11 among 300 CD 27 voters, comes as the Republican Salazar fights to keep her seat against Taddeo, a former Crist running mate, and as Republicans battle to regain a majority in the U.S. House.
Salazar’s lead comes despite her Democratic challenger maintaining stronger favorability numbers in the district. Salazar is split at 39% favorable and unfavorable, while Taddeo is above water at 35% favorable to 28% unfavorable, according to the survey.
But she may benefit from an unpopular President.
Joe Biden is underwater among CD 27 voters, with 51% of surveyed voters holding an unfavorable opinion and 47% favorable. Likewise, just 33% of voters said the country was headed in the right direction, while 59% said it was heading in the wrong direction.
The race is likely to be tight. A previous poll from SEA Polling and Strategic Design taken Oct. 3-5 showed Taddeo in a statistical tie with Salazar, with a less than 1 percentage point advantage.
Still, Republicans are hopeful with the latest polling results.
“The rightward shift of the district has Salazar performing very well across the board. Her base is larger, and those left undecided are most focused on the economy, inflation, and national security — all issues that will push these voters Salazar’s way,” Cygnal President and Founder Brent Buchanan said.
With her eye on protecting reproductive freedom in Florida, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is using her newly formed political committee, “Won’t Back Down,” to support an inaugural slate of 20 pro-choice female candidates.
The endorsements include federal, state and local candidates. Each will receive financial and earned media support from the newly created political committee, according to a news release from the group.
“When I ran in 2018, I made a promise that I would never back down from a fight. Over the last four years, I’ve been doing exactly that — defending our rights and fighting for our freedoms. Won’t Back Down will work tirelessly to ensure that the next line of qualified candidates aren’t left behind, and that they have the organizational support willing to step up and make sure that they are competitive and successful,” Fried said in a statement.
Endorsed candidates include:
— U.S. Rep. Val Demings — U.S. Senate
— Aramis Ayala — Attorney General
— Naomi Blemur — Agriculture Commissioner
— Loranne Ausley — State Senate District 3
— Sen. Janet Cruz — State Senate District 14
— Eunic Ortiz — State Senate District 18
— Raquel Pacheco — State Senate District 36
— Janelle Perez — State Senate District 38
— Rep. Kristen Arrington — State House District 46
— Lindsay Cross — State House District 60
— Janet Varnell Warwick — State House District 61
— Rep. Michele Rayner Goolsby — State House District 62
— Rep. Kelly Skidmore — State House District 92
— Hillary Cassel — State House District 101
— Rep. Marie Woodson — State House District 105
— Donna Deegan — Mayor, Jacksonville
— Allison Miller — State Attorney, 6th Judicial Circuit
— Donna Korn — Broward School Board, Seat 8
— Yvette DuBose — Ft. Lauderdale City Commission, District 3
— Michelle McGovern — Palm Beach County Commission, District 6
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@FEMA_Deanne: This afternoon I saw firsthand the critical work our team is doing to help jump-start Floridian’s recovery at a Disaster Recovery Center in Sarasota County. Over 41,000 survivors have registered for disaster assistance in this county alone.
Glad to see that Two Meatballs in the Kitchen — Cape Coral is back open for business after #HurricaneIan.
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) October 15, 2022
—@MarkGlaeser4: Nine active 2020 voter fraud cases in five FL counties have hearings this week.
—@ESPNStatsInfo: The New York Yankees were 167-0 in postseason history when leading by multiple runs entering the ninth inning — until tonight.
—@SteveLemongello: I’m starting to think giving baseball teams byes and having them sit around for a week was a bad idea
— DAYS UNTIL —
NBA season tips off — 1; Taylor Swift’s ‘Midnights’ release — 4; the Gubernatorial General Election debate — 7; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 98; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 8; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 8; City & State Florida Digital Summit — 10; Early voting begins for General Election — 12; 2022 General Election — 22; ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ premieres — 25; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 25; FITCon 2022 begins — 31; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 31; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 35; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 38; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 47; ‘Willow’ premieres on Disney+ — 47; 2022 Florida Chamber Annual Insurance Summit — 49; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 50; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 60; final Broadway performance of ‘The Music Man’ with Hugh Jackman — 76; Bruce Springsteen launches his 2023 tour in Tampa — 107; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 123; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 124; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 141; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 158; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 183; 2023 Session Sine Die — 200; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 200; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 228; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 277; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 382; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 529; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 585; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 648; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 648; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 690; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 753; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 851; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 928. ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,117.
— TOP STORY —
“‘You have my full support’: Top Ron DeSantis aides played key roles in migrant flights” via Nicholas Nehamas, Sarah Blaskey and Mary Ellen Klas — New public records show top DeSantis aides played key roles in planning and executing Florida’s controversial migrant flight program. While the program was carried out by a private contractor, the new records show the deep involvement of Larry Keefe, DeSantis’ public safety czar, and James Uthmeier, his chief of staff, in an operation that has led to at least one criminal investigation and several lawsuits.
The records suggest Keefe traveled to Texas to oversee the program.
Operatives working for the state recruited migrants in San Antonio, offering them free flights to Martha’s Vineyard with misleading promises, saying jobs and aid would be waiting for them.
“I’m back out here,” Keefe wrote in a Sept. 5 text message. “Conditions are quite favorable.” “Very good,” Uthmeier replied. “You have my full support. Call anytime.”
As public safety czar, Keefe’s portfolio includes immigration. Before joining the administration, he worked as an outside lawyer for Vertol Systems Company, the Destin, Florida-based company hired by the Florida Department of Transportation to arrange the flights. Keefe led Vertol’s litigation strategy and was later appointed by then-President Donald Trump to serve as the U.S. Attorney for Florida’s Northern District.
“Migrants DeSantis had flown to Martha’s Vineyard certified as crime victims” via The Associated Press — Texas Sheriff Javier Salazar has declared the 49 migrants flown from San Antonio to Massachusetts last month to be certified crime victims. Now, the migrants can apply for special visas to remain in the U.S. as the criminal investigation by Salazar’s department on the Sept. 14 flight to Martha’s Vineyard proceeds. Salazar said that “based upon the claims of migrants being transported from Bexar County under false pretenses,” the office is investigating this case as possible unlawful restraint.
— 2022 —
“DeSantis hits seven-day spending record, holds 21 times more cash than Charlie Crist” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — DeSantis put further financial distance between himself and Democratic challenger Crist in the last week of September when he amassed $5.9 million. That funding comes thanks to massive infusions from the GOP, Seminole Tribe, and a passel of deep-pocketed donors in and out of Florida. The incumbent also spent $10.2 million — the most so far in a single seven-day stretch this election cycle — primarily on in-party kickbacks and a robust advertising push. At the start of October, the Republican Governor still held close to $105.9 million between his campaign account and political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis. Crist, meanwhile, held a comparatively paltry $4.9 million.
“DeSantis draws big crowd as he campaigns in heavily Democratic Broward” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis delivered both a traditional election-season campaign pitch on Sunday, promising tax cuts, and touted the conservative social messaging on gender, education and immigration that have become hallmarks of his time in office. The crowd, hundreds of people gathered in Broward, the most Democratic county in the state, liked what it heard. He said the state would permanently eliminate sales tax on diapers, wipes and baby items such as strollers, plus books and youth sports equipment. He promised two back-to-school sales tax holidays next year. Also, he said, pet food will become sales-tax-free.
“Joe Biden to visit Florida at start of November, fundraise for Crist” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Biden is making a stop in Fort Lauderdale Nov. 1 to campaign for Crist as he heads to the November General Election against DeSantis. This will be Biden’s first political event in Florida since taking office. The President will be participating in a fundraising reception for Crist. The news of Biden’s visit comes as the majority of Florida voters disapprove of the job he’s doing, which could negatively impact Democratic candidates throughout the state. A poll found 54% of Floridians are unhappy with Biden’s performance, while 42% said the President is doing a good job.
“‘Leaving no person behind’: Crist, Val Demings pledge equal rights fight during First Lady’s visit to Orlando” via Cristóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel — First lady Jill Biden made a stop in Orlando to campaign for U.S. Rep. Demings and Crist, pledging a vigorous push for equal rights just weeks before Election Day. In a rally of hundreds of supporters outside Orlando City Hall on Saturday, Demings and Crist vowed to fight back against the continuing culture wars waged by Republicans relating to LGBTQ protections and abortion rights.
Assignment editors — Crist will take part in the following events in South Florida: 10:45 a.m., Miami’s community news monthly luncheon, Pinecrest; 5:45 p.m., Revive the Vote Broward, Hollywood. Locations upon RSVP at [email protected].
“Darren Soto endorses Crist after unveiling of ‘Boricuas Con Crist’ plan” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — “Boricua Floridians need a leader in the Governor’s Office that truly has their back and will fight for their well-being every single day — Charlie will be that Governor.” Soto made the announcement after Crist unveiled his “Boricuas Con Crist” plan. The plan lays out Crist’s agenda to improve the quality of life for Boricuas. The six-pronged plan suggests instituting a “Good Neighbor Policy” to look out for Puerto Rico, not just in friendship and economic cooperation, but in disaster relief. The plan would also create the Office of New Floridians to help new residents navigate the state. The agenda also supports affordability on property insurance, rent and utility bills, and promotes affordable health care — with Crist vowing to veto any budget that does not expand Medicaid.
“Direct mail roundup: Black voters targeted for anti-Crist IRS message” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Mailers targeting Black voters are arriving in mailboxes with warnings about who Crist has “armed” to come knocking for “their take.” The Seminole Tribe of Florida is the main money behind a political committee now dropping mailers featuring Crist, with a grim face, along with largely debunked claims about what 87,000 more IRS employees will mean. It’s going to affect small businesses and those who get paid in cash, the mailer says. “Charlie Crist has armed the IRS. They will be knocking on your door soon,” the mailer reads, with smaller print about how the IRS has targeted Black Americans more than any other group, based on a 2019 news article.
Happening today — U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn will speak at the Northwest Florida Economic Summit: 11:30 a.m., Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center, 1250 Miracle Strip Parkway S.E., Fort Walton Beach.
“Former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker backs Anna Paulina Luna” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Former St. Petersburg Mayor Baker has announced his endorsement of Air Force veteran Luna for the CD 13 Republican Primary. Baker, a Republican, served as Mayor of the city from 2001-2010. In announcing his endorsement via video, he called Luna a “fighter for America.” The endorsement from Baker comes only days away from the CD 13 Primary Election, a race where Luna is considered a front-runner. Luna adds Baker’s support to a long list of endorsers, including Trump, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
— MORE 2022 —
Happening today — Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book and Miami Democrat Perez, a candidate for Senate District 38, will hold a news conference: 10 a.m., Kennedy Park, 2400 South Bayshore Dr., Miami.
“These 3 Palm Beach County Commission seats are up for grabs in November’s election” via Wells Dusenbury of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Three of the seven Palm Beach County Commission seats are up for grabs this upcoming election, with two newcomers facing off and a pair of incumbents seeking re-election. Democrats hold six of the seven seats. In District 6, Democrat Michelle Oyola McGovern and Republican Sara Baxter are competing for the lone vacant seat, which was previously held by Democrat Melissa McKinlay. This will be the first time since 2014 that the District 6 seat hosts a Republican challenger.
“Obama to campaign in Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia” via Michael Scherer of The Washington Post — Former President Barack Obama will host midterm campaign rallies in Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia at the end of October. The goal: boost Democratic Senate and gubernatorial candidates in three battleground states. The former President is expected to talk about Democratic accomplishments over the past two years, as well as alarm over the state of American democracy. More dates will likely be added to his midterm travel in the coming weeks.
“GOP hopefuls turn to Mike Pence to broaden appeal before election” via Jill Colvin of The Associated Press — The final weeks of this year’s intensely competitive Midterm Elections suggest that Pence’s fortunes have shifted as he lays the groundwork for his own potential 2024 White House campaign. The man who was booed last year at a conservative conference is now an in-demand draw for Republican candidates, including some who spent their primaries obsessively courting Trump’s endorsement, in part by parroting his election lies. Pence has traveled the country, holding events and raising millions for candidates and Republican groups, including signing fundraising solicitations for party committees.
— AFTERMATH —
“Hour-by-hour analysis shows toll of county’s delay before Hurricane Ian” via Antonio Olivo, Derek Hawkins, Samuel Oakford and Scott Dance of The Washington Post — A new analysis from The Washington Post shows just how much confusion residents hit by Hurricane Ian faced leading up to the storm. Lee County officials used predictions that the storm would hit farther north, causing delays amid repeated forecasts from the National Weather Service that the county’s barrier islands and coastal areas could experience life-threatening flooding. Without a clear, centralized message about the storm’s dangers, residents in the path spent critical hours trying to weigh the risks on their own. Even after Lee County began planning evacuations, officials waited more than 12 hours to publicly issue an order.
“The Gulf of Mexico rose 15 feet in part of Florida as Ian drowned residents, carried away cars and left a trail of rubble, analysis finds” via Dinah Voyles Pulver of USA Today — A preliminary analysis of Hurricane Ian’s deadly storm surge suggests the Gulf of Mexico pushed as high as 15 feet above the normally dry ground on Fort Myers Beach. That’s at its peak, as the storm made landfall. The 10-15 feet peak high-water levels at Fort Myers Beach puts Ian among some of the highest storm surges in history in the Atlantic basin. But it is still well below peak water levels reported in some of the worst storms on the northern Gulf Coast. Such high water provides an explanation for the 50 deaths reported in Lee County, in which at least 30 were attributed to drowning.
“After Hurricane Ian, salvage firm pulls yachts out of swimming pools and mangrove trees” via Peter Grant of The Wall Street Journal — Heather O’Brien makes a living rescuing small boats and yachts in the waters near Fort Myers. Since Hurricane Ian, she has been busy. O’Brien, general manager of Sea Tow Fort Myers, is now methodically helping extricate these stranded and sunken vessels from the land and sea, acting as part salvager, part psychologist to calm the nerves of emotional owners. “I’m taking the time to speak to everyone who calls, to say: ‘I understand this is stressful,’” says O’Brien. “Please be patient.” Hurricane Ian is expected to set a record for boat loss, according to officials in the insurance, salvage and boating industries. The hurricane’s final tally probably won’t be known until after the monthslong process of extracting boats from where the storm deposited them, then either junking or repairing them.
“After Hurricane Ian, Florida citrus and agriculture struggle” via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — Hurricane Ian hit the citrus groves hard, as well as the state’s large cattle industry, dairy operations, vegetables like tomatoes and peppers, and even hundreds of thousands of bees essential to many growers. The orange forecast for 2022-2023, released Wednesday, puts production at about 28 million boxes, or 1.26 million tons. That’s 32% below the year before and does not account for damage from the hurricane, which will surely worsen those numbers.
“Lessons from Hurricane Michael being applied to Ian recovery” via Jay Reeves of The Associated Press — Four years before Category 4 Ian wiped out parts of southwest Florida, the state’s Panhandle had its own encounter with an even stronger hurricane, Michael. The Category 5 storm all but destroyed one town, fractured thousands of homes and businesses, and did some $25 billion in damage. Mayor Greg Brudnicki and other leaders from a rebuilt Panama City traveled to the southwestern coast this week at the request of DeSantis to help officials plan a way forward. Keeping crews and trucks in the area to remove mountains of debris is job No. 1 because all other progress hinges on that, Brudnicki said, and that can mean obtaining loans as a bridge until federal reimbursement money shows up.
— OTHER HURRICANE STORYLINES —
“Anger as DeSantis eases voting rules in Republican areas hit by hurricane” via Gloria Olidipo of The Guardian — DeSantis has made voting easier in certain Florida counties battered by Hurricane Ian — but only Republican-leaning ones. DeSantis signed an executive order on Thursday that eases voting rules for about 1 million voters in Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota counties, all areas that Hurricane Ian hit hard and that all reliably vote Republican. Meanwhile, Orange County, a Democratic-leaning area that experienced historic flooding from the storm, received no voting exceptions. The accommodations include extended early voting days and the ability for voters to send mail-in ballots from addresses not listed in voting records.
“DeSantis: ‘All hands on deck’ to help fishing communities affected by Hurricane Ian” via Samantha Neely of the Fort Myers News-Press — DeSantis held a news conference in Punta Gorda on Saturday to show his support for the fishing communities affected by Hurricane Ian. Joined by other state and national officials, DeSantis discussed the efforts underway to help residents and business owners within the fishing industry recover. DeSantis also addressed progress already made since Ian’s landfall. He thanked local boat captains for their role, from helping residents get to their homes on the barrier islands to volunteering with law enforcement for rescues. DeSantis spoke of the devastation he has seen to many vessels and their gear throughout the Southwest region.
“DeSantis requests federal support for fisheries in aftermath of Hurricane Ian” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — DeSantis is requesting that the areas affected by Hurricane Ian be declared a federal fisheries disaster by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which would open channels for more aide for those in the fishing industry. If approved, NOAA will be able to supply more support to commercial fishermen, wholesale dealers, charter boat captains and fisheries, he said. “Clearly a storm of this magnitude — this is appropriate for this declaration,” DeSantis said. “So once this is approved, then that provides these groups and people in the industry to work with NOAA to be able to get more support. So, we’re happy to help facilitate that request.”
“Big hurricane relief donors include some top DeSantis campaign contributors” via Zac Anderson and Douglas Soule of NWF Daily News — The Florida Disaster Fund has raised a record $45 million since activated shortly after Hurricane Ian made landfall. In the process of surpassing the record, it has also lifted the profile of Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis, who called for the fund’s activation and has been promoting it. The fund has also provided a new way to get on the Governor’s good side — more than two dozen major DeSantis campaign donors have given to the relief fund. While the vast majority — 83% — of contributors to the disaster fund gave $200 or less, a significant portion of the money raised so far has come from large donors who gave $10,000 or more, and among those donors at least a dozen contributed to the Governor’s political committee.
“Thanks to Ian, we’re all going to pay more for insurance next year” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Hurricane Ian didn’t break Florida’s property insurance market. Insurers have the capacity to pay claims from the storm. Losses estimated by domestic insurers have been readjusted this week to levels lower than originally estimated and experts say those losses will remain well within companies’ abilities to pay claims. They’ll be doing so out of their surpluses and reinsurance they were able to secure before this year’s hurricane season. The bad news is that numerous insurance experts predict that the state Legislature will need to take more action to shore up the industry before the 2023 hurricane season.
“Why Ian may push Florida real estate out of reach for all but the super-rich” via Christopher Flavelle of The New York Times — The damage left by Hurricane Ian threatens to destabilize Florida’s insurance and real estate markets, giving insight into how these powerful storms linked to climate change may reshape the cost of homes. Data finds Ian is part of a trend: Climate change is making hurricanes and other disasters more destructive and pushing up the cost of home insurance. And soon, it’ll be out of reach for most people but the super-rich. More violent storms, flooding and wildfires in states like Louisiana and California are already causing insurers to pull back from those markets, too.
“Florida fields 1,300 price gouging complaints after Hurricane Ian” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Florida consumers have sent the Attorney General’s office more than 1,300 complaints of alleged price gouging in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. Most of the complaints involve prices for gas and water. The complaints, fielded by the office’s Consumer Protection Division, have yielded $17,000 in rebates for 100 consumers. The Division can’t issue fines automatically but attempts to get refunds for customers or get businesses to lower their prices.
— STATEWIDE —
“How to make a semi-fascist party” via Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine — I attended the National Conservatism Conference in Miami, where Republican politicians, right-wing thought leaders, and various party apparatchiks had gathered to articulate their vision of the conservative movement’s future. Two models for the emerging right-wing state came up repeatedly. The first was the DeSantis governorship. Attendees were entranced by his war on the left and particularly admired his retaliation against Disney for having criticized his restrictions on LGBTQ+ discussions in schools (which critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” law). DeSantis had the guts to punish one of the state’s most powerful firms and, the conferees believed, showed how all corporate America could be brought to heel. The other model was Victor Orbán’s Hungary. DeSantis’s liberal critics have sometimes compared his methods to Orbán’s, but at the conference, this comparison was invoked as praise.
“How DeSantis and Florida Republicans are reshaping higher education” via Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO — DeSantis and conservative state lawmakers are frequent critics of Florida’s higher education system. They say universities are offering degrees in “zombie studies” and label campuses “socialism factories.” DeSantis over the summer also appointed a top GOP legislative ally, state Sen. Ray Rodrigues, as Florida’s chancellor for higher education. Most recently, the Governor’s Chief of Staff helped Sen. Ben Sasse navigate the University of Florida presidential selection process. “They want to take over higher education, and this is one way to do that,” Andrew Gothard, president of the United Faculty of Florida union, said.
“DeSantis describes state insurer Citizens as ‘unfortunately undercapitalized’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis remarked Friday that Citizens Property Insurance, the state insurer of last resort, is “unfortunately undercapitalized.” However, he also noted that the company feels like it will be able to pay claims from this storm due to a relative lack of policies in Southwest Florida. Citizens’ customer base has grown to more than a million customers as private insurers have failed or bailed on the state, but the Governor’s remarks suggest such growth comes with limits. DeSantis told a reporter that “we had questions early on even as the storm was hitting about the Citizens Property Insurance, which I think most of you know is unfortunately undercapitalized, and it’s something that if you had a major storm, could be in some problems.”
“Rick Scott says property insurance rates ‘skyrocketed’ in DeSantis’ era” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Scott again isn’t providing DeSantis much rhetorical cover when it comes to Florida’s property insurance problems. During an interview Sunday, Scott said rates “skyrocketed” in the last four years, a time roughly equivalent to DeSantis’ term. “And now what you’ve seen is the cost of property insurance has just skyrocketed, in the last four years,” Scott said on WJXT’s “This Week in Jacksonville.” Scott said it was important to “get the prices down” in the property insurance market by “eliminating the fraud,” before offering another shiv toward the current policy, spotlighting the expansion of the Citizens Property Insurance customer base, the “insurer of last resort” which is now over a million customers as private insurers have failed or bailed on the state.
“DeSantis appoints one new member to Enterprise Florida board, reappoints another” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — DeSantis has appointed one new member, Jonathan Satter, and reappointed another, Katherine San Pedro, to the Board of Directors of Enterprise Florida, a business-government partnership that today supports more than 60,000 exporting companies statewide. Both are from South Florida. Satter is the CEO of White Wolf Capital Group, a private investment firm specializing in leveraged buyouts and recapitalizations with offices in Miami, Chicago and Montréal. San Pedro is a partner at Ballard Partners, a lobbying and public relations firm with more than a dozen stateside and international offices.
Happening today — The 5th District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission will start a two-day process of interviewing candidates. On the agenda: Joe Boatwright, Jeb Branham, Mary Jolley, Amie Kozen, Katherine Miller, Cristy Russell, James Sherman, Chris Sprysenski, Philip Bonamo, Amber Donley, Christopher Kelly, John MacIver, Tom Pycraft, Meredith Charbula, Tatiana Salvador, Tom Smith, Anthony Tatti and Michael Vitale; 8 a.m., 5th District Court of Appeal, 300 South Beach St., Daytona Beach.
“Surgeon General Ladapo: mRNA vaccine would not have been approved if cardiac risk increase was known” via Amber Jo Cooper of Florida’s Voice — Ladapo went on Tucker Carlson Tonight to speak out against the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines following the release of a new analysis from the Department of Health in Florida. “If it had been known two years ago or so, that this vaccine would increase cardiac deaths in young men by 84%, would they have approved it? The obvious answer is no,” Ladapo told Carlson. A new analysis from the Florida Department of Health dropped blockbuster findings of an 84% increase among males 18-39 within 28 days following mRNA vaccination — in the U.S., the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
“After report on incest victim, Lauren Book calls out abortion restrictions as ‘cruel and unusual’” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Sen. Book is expressing outrage at news of a child incest victim forced to travel outside Florida for an abortion. But what the Senate Democratic Leader could not do was feign shock or surprise. One of the stories has now been heard courtesy of Planned Parenthood. Representatives shared an account with BuzzFeed News of a middle school girl impregnated through incest. Laura Goodhue, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida, did not share the girl’s name, but revealed she had to travel two or three states away to obtain a legal abortion. That prompted a number of Democratic campaigns around the state to draw attention to a ban signed by DeSantis in April on abortions 15 weeks into pregnancy. The new state law allows no exceptions for cases of rape or incest, despite emphatic pleas made by Book on the Senate floor during the Legislative Session.
“New surveys of Florida colleges, universities fail to support concerns over anti-conservative sentiment” via Fresh Take Florida — The results are in from a survey ordered by DeSantis and Florida lawmakers. And, despite Republican leadership expressing concern about the anti-conservative sentiment on campuses, most faculty, instructional staff and administrators who responded described themselves as moderate politically — and more of them described themselves as conservative than liberal. Hardly anyone agreed that endorsing a particular political view would help them be promoted or granted tenure, and more of them agreed than disagreed that their campus was equally tolerant of liberal and conservative ideas and beliefs. So few students filled out the surveys — fewer than 1% of more than 1.7 million — that the answers the state collected from them were statistically insignificant.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“U.S. will support sending ‘multinational rapid action force’ to Haiti” via Michael Wilner and Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald — The U.S. has drafted a United Nations Security Council resolution that will encourage the “immediate deployment of a multinational rapid action force” to Haiti. The resolution hopes to address the country’s worst security and health crisis in decades. It comes in response to a call by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres last week for the establishment of a rapid-reaction force to help the Haitian National Police. In the last month, the country has seen a rise in powerful armed gangs that have created chaos, including a blockade at the country’s largest fuel terminals, and cutting off its critical roadways.
“Biden turning to Donald Trump-era rule to expel Venezuelan migrants” via Colleen Long and Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — Two years ago, Biden loudly denounced Trump for immigration policies that inflicted “cruelty and exclusion at every turn,” including toward those fleeing the “brutal” government of socialist Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. Now, with increasing numbers of Venezuelans arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border as the Nov. 8 election nears, Biden has turned to an unlikely source for a solution: his predecessor’s playbook. Biden last week invoked a Trump-era rule known as Title 42, which Biden’s own Justice Department is fighting in court, to deny Venezuelans fleeing their crisis-torn country the chance to request asylum at the border.
“Social Security boost seen as unlikely to help Dems at polls” via Amanda Seitz of The Associated Press — In fact, the promise of bigger payments could call even more attention to the surging prices that have been inflicting pain on households — and the reason behind Thursday’s announcement of the program’s largest cost-of-living increase in four decades. “It’s going to bring more money to people’s pockets, but it primes people to think about high inflation,” said Marty Cohen, a James Madison University political science professor. “This is being done because inflation is bad, and that’s the reason for the large adjustment. It’s not an issue that Democrats want on the front burner for voters.” Voters have ranked the economy as a higher priority than Social Security, with 71% of U.S. adults telling Pew Research Center in January that strengthening the economy was a top priority for the President and Congress versus 57% saying the same about ensuring the Social Security system is financially sound.
“Biden’s pot pardons could boost states’ legalization drives” via Andrew DeMillo of The Associated Press — There are few surprises expected on Election Day in solidly Republican Arkansas, where Trump’s former Press Secretary is heavily favored in the race for Governor and other GOP candidates are considered locks. But one big exception is the campaign to make Arkansas the first state in the South to legalize recreational marijuana. A proposal to change the state’s constitution is drawing millions of dollars from opponents and supporters of legalization, with ads crowding the airwaves. Biden’s step toward decriminalizing the drug could provide a boost for legalization in some of the most conservative parts of the country, experts say.
Happening today — U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will speak to the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches: noon, Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“FBI seeks additional information from two Trump aides about Mar-a-Lago records” via Sadie Gurman and Alex Leary of The Wall Street Journal — Two former aides, Walt Nauta and Will Russell, are witnesses in the Justice Department’s investigation into the handling of presidential and classified records taken from the White House. But they aren’t formally cooperating with the probe. Nauta was seen on surveillance footage moving boxes from a storage room before and after investigators issued a subpoena in May seeking the documents’ return. Nauta told investigators he did so at Trump’s request. Interest in Russell is new. He served in the Trump White House and had previously been subpoenaed in connection with the Justice Department’s investigation of the Jan. 6 riot.
“Co-founder of Trump’s media company details Truth Social’s bitter infighting” via Drew Harwell of The Washington Post — Will Wilkerson, then an executive at Trump’s startup Trump Media & Technology Group, was at a Fort Lauderdale coffee shop with company co-founder Andy Litinsky last October when Trump called Litinsky with a question: Would he give up some of his shares to Trump’s wife, Melania? Trump had already been given 90% of the company’s shares in exchange for the use of his name. Litinsky, who first met Trump in 2004 as a contestant on the TV show “The Apprentice,” was abruptly removed from the company’s board. Wilkerson said he believes it was payback for his refusal to turn over a small fortune to the former President’s wife.
“Trump attacks American Jews, says they must ‘get their act together’ on Israel ‘before it’s too late’” via Summer Concepcion of NBC News — Trump attacked Jews in the U.S. on his Truth Social platform Sunday, writing that they need to “get their act together” and “appreciate” Israel “before it is too late.” “No President has done more for Israel than I have. Somewhat surprisingly, however, our wonderful Evangelicals are far more appreciative of this than the people of the Jewish faith, especially those living in the U.S.,” Trump wrote. “Those living in Israel, though, are a different story — Highest approval rating in the World, could easily be P.M.!” he continued.
— LOCAL: S. FL —
“Biden visits breast cancer survivors in Broward, urging people to get screened” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — First Lady Biden shared her support of breast cancer survivors and the medical teams behind their recovery Saturday when visiting the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. The stop came ahead of National Mammography Day and as Breast Cancer Awareness Month progresses. The First Lady was joined by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a breast cancer survivor, and Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, who was recently named director of the National Cancer Institute.
“Parkland shooter’s life sentence could bring changes to law” via The Associated Press — It wasn’t long ago that Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz would have been looking at a near-certain death sentence. Until 2016, Florida law allowed trial judges to impose a death sentence if a majority of the jurors agreed. With a 9-3 vote Thursday supporting Cruz’s execution, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer would have likely sent him to Death Row for the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. Now, however, a vote of anything less than 12-0 means an automatic sentence of life without parole. That would again put Florida in a distinct minority among the 27 states that still have the death penalty where almost all require juror unanimity.
“‘I have the plan’: Philippe Bien-Aime envisions District 2 turnaround ahead of Miami-Dade Commission runoff” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — North Miami Mayor Bien–Aime is running for the Miami-Dade Commission as a man with a plan — something he says District 2, which he hopes to represent in County Hall, is in dire need of. If elected, Bien-Aime wants to start working on Day One. His campaign priorities range from boosting local businesses, attracting investors to the community, and addressing housing unaffordability to improving infrastructure sustainability and creating “forward-thinking” services to help residents in need. He is now competing in a runoff against nonprofit founder and director Marleine Bastien, who received the second-most votes in the Primary. Neither secured more than half the votes cast, which would have earned them the District 2 seat outright.
“98 migrants rescued from boat off Florida coast lacked food” via The Associated Press — Almost 100 people were rescued this last week from an overcrowded boat off the Florida coast, reporting they had no food or water for two days. A Coast Guard helicopter spotted the 96 Haitians, as well as a passenger each from Uganda and the Bahamas, about 20 miles east of Boca Raton last week. They were transferred to Bahamian authorities on Sunday. The 40-foot cabin cruiser was overloaded with 53 men, 35 women and 10 children. No one was injured.
“Another Keys fire rescue air ambulance crew member has been arrested in stolen meds case” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — A third Florida Keys’ helicopter air ambulance program crew member has been arrested as part of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office’s ongoing investigation into stolen drugs and altered medication inventory logbooks. Only former chief flight nurse Lynda Rusinowski has been charged with stealing meds so far, but two paramedics assigned to the Trauma Star program have now been arrested on felony charges of evidence destroying and obstruction of justice. Detectives on Saturday arrested Harold Jaesson Perez weeks after they arrested 44-year-old Damian Roberto Suarez.
— LOCAL: C. FL —
“DeSantis makes Biketoberfest appearance, then surveys Ian damage at Flagler Beach” via Mark Harper of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — One day after tossing ball caps to adoring Biketoberfest revelers at Destination Daytona, DeSantis visited Flagler County. The Governor was joined at Flagler Beach by FEMA Region 4 Administrator Gracia Szczech and Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie. State Rep. Paul Renner, the House Speaker-elect, was also there along with Flagler Beach city and Flagler County officials. On Saturday at Destination Daytona in Ormond Beach, DeSantis endorsed Volusia County School Board candidate Jessie Thompson, who’s running in District 3 against Justin Kennedy. He signaled infrastructure as a future budget priority. “I’ll tell you: We’ve got so many people that want to visit Florida, so many people who want to move to Florida, we’ve got to step it up even more,” DeSantis said. “So, we’ll be announcing major infrastructure investments above and beyond what we’re already doing, and that means places like I-4, Central Florida.”
“Joel Greenberg associate Keith Ingersoll to plead guilty of defrauding investor of millions” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Ingersoll, a former associate of Greenberg, has agreed to plead guilty in federal court to charges that he took part in a real estate scheme that defrauded an investor of millions of dollars. According to his signed plea deal with federal prosecutors, Ingersoll made more than $9.6 million in bilking the local investor. He faces more than 20 years in federal prison. Ingersoll on Wednesday agreed to plead guilty to two charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one charge of wire fraud, one charge of attempted wire fraud, and a charge of aggravated identity theft. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Embry Kidd in the Federal Courthouse in downtown Orlando.
“Trulieve opens new medical cannabis dispensary in Land o’ Lakes” via Florida Politics — Trulieve has announced the opening of a new medical cannabis dispensary in Land o’ Lakes and will be celebrating the new location with festivities and special deals on Saturday. Trulieve will be hosting grand opening festivities throughout the day at the new dispensary, including partner giveaways, music, food trucks, deals and specials, and all registered patients will receive a 25% discount. “Trulieve is proud to continue being at the forefront of expanding access to medical marijuana for Florida’s patient population,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said.
— LOCAL: SW. FL —
“Debris collection underway in Sarasota County” via Barb Richardson of the Sun Englewood — County Administrator Jonathan Lewis told Commissioners during a recent meeting that an estimated 1.5 million cubic yards of debris would be collected from this storm, five times the 300,000 cubic yards of debris gathered after Hurricane Irma in 2017. Contractors hired by the county began the cleanup effort on Oct. 6 along the roads in the unincorporated area of the county. North Port and Venice have their own cleanup efforts underway. Instead of waiting for the contractors, residents can bring their debris to the county landfill, but they will pay the normal fee for doing so. However, the county has also set up three free sites where residents can unload debris. For South County residents, the drop-off site is at the Jackson Road Transfer Station, 250 S. Jackson Road, Venice.
— LOCAL: N. FL —
“Nassau County school cardiac screenings caught in COVID-19 vaccine paranoia” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — A free, community health service provided to Nassau County School District students is facing coronavirus vaccine paranoia. The screening, which is safe and noninvasive, is meant to screen individuals for cardiac risk factors. Sudden cardiac arrest is the No. 1 cause of death for student-athletes. But, providing health care for free to people in need is drawing skepticism, leading to false rumors across social media that the service forces COVID-19 vaccines on these students. This comes after Florida Surgeon General Ladapo stoked the fires of vaccine skepticism again by urging young men to lay off COVID-19 vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer.
“Faculty members are perplexed on how Ben Sasse plans to lead the University of Florida” via Gershon Harrell of The Gainesville Sun — After a student-led protest that interrupted his first visit to the University of Florida’s campus last week, presidential finalist Sasse faces questions from skeptical faculty members about whether he can lead such a large public institution. The Republican Senator from Nebraska was asked at last week’s forum how he planned to oversee UF considering his only prior educational leadership came from a much smaller religious-affiliated Midland University. The school is located in Freemont, Nebraska and has about 1,700 students compared to UF’s 53,000. “I think many of my colleagues feel that his academic credentials are not where we would have wanted them to be,” said Danaya Wright, a professor of law at UF.
— TOP OPINIONS —
“The abortion story that could shift the tide in Florida” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Polling is and has been on the incumbent Republican’s side. The GOP has the advantage in voter registration and is turning this longtime purple state redder by the minute. Biden put the nail in Crist’s coffin when he offered a non-endorsement endorsement for DeSantis, praising his Hurricane Ian response efforts.
While I don’t think it will change the ultimate outcome, if anything can shift the nearly inevitable tide, it’s news this week of a young girl who was unable to terminate a pregnancy that resulted from incest.
An incest victim reportedly in middle school was unable to obtain an abortion in Florida because she was beyond the 15-week threshold allowable for the procedure in the state. BuzzFeed reported that Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida said the child had to travel “at least two, three states away” to terminate her pregnancy.
This is the type of news that gives Democrats the opportunity to blast Republicans up and down the ballot on an issue that is perhaps the most high-profile this cycle.
It’s easy to dismiss the abortion talk as rhetoric, until there is a middle school-aged student, subjected to abuse that resulted in an unwanted pregnancy, to make it a real-life tragedy.
As the top Republican in Florida, the buck stops with DeSantis. He signed the state’s latest abortion restriction, which provides exceptions for saving the mother’s life, preventing serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality, but not in cases of rape or incest.
There is no hiding from his role in shaping this restrictive legislation.
“‘He’s developing blinkers’: Has DeSantis let all the winning go to his head?” via Michael Kruse of POLITICO Magazine — Citing primarily a pair of joint statements Andrew Warren signed along with scores of other prosecutors that criticized the criminalization of abortion and health care for transgender people, DeSantis matter-of-factly called “obviously warranted” his suspension and “eventual removal.”
DeSantis’ swaggering standing and aggressive political posture, according to more than 30 recent interviews and hundreds more over the past several years with aides and ex-aides, strategists and lobbyists, operatives and activists, and current and former elected officials from both parties, reflects a pattern of behavior his allies and supporters chalk up to growing confidence and his critics and opponents see as an increasingly authoritarian bent. But there is nothing in the entirety of DeSantis’ record, most of these people agree, quite like the action he took against Warren.
“This poses a unique threat to democracy,” Warren told me last week when we met. He’s suing DeSantis in federal court in Tallahassee to get his job back — more importantly, though, he insists, to push back against the frightening precedent he believes his dismissal would set. “It poses an existential threat to elections,” Warren said, “if this is allowed to stand.”
Using vast, varied, politically critical Florida as both a training ground and proving ground, the ever-calculating DeSantis has systematically picked what the most revved-up on the right deem as the right fights.
But close observers sense in episodes like the ouster of Warren a looming vulnerability as well — what they see, they say, as potentially his most potent opponent. “When every time you swing the bat you hit a home run, you become so caught up and sold on your own abilities that you just keep swinging and never think you’re going to miss,” said John Morgan, the Florida-based mega-attorney and mainly Democratic donor who has been at times nonetheless pro-DeSantis. “It’s emblematic of a view of, ‘I’m like a king, I can do whatever I want, and I’m so popular that nothing’s going to happen to me.’”
— OPINIONS —
“This is what happens when race is everything” via David Brooks of The New York Times — We have had a long-running debate in this country over how to think about racial categories. On the one side, there are those who see American society as a conflict between oppressors and oppressed groups. They center race and race consciousness when talking about a person’s identity. Justice will come when minority group power is used to push back on White supremacy. On the other side, there are others who argue that racial categorization itself can be the problem. The concept of systemic racism is built upon crude racial categorization. As Williams puts it, America should fight racism while over the long term getting rid of “the categories that come out of the collision of Africa and Europe in the slave trade and the New World.”
“The Jan. 6 committee has done its job — maybe too well” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — In its ninth and possibly final public session on Thursday, the Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol added vivid detail to the narrative it had thoroughly documented in its previous hearings. On a huge screen above the dais, the lawmakers flashed the grave warnings the Secret Service had received 11 days before the attack: “Their plan is to literally kill people. Please, please take this tip seriously and investigate further.” The lawmakers displayed the text message from Trump aide Jason Miller to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows boasting, “I got the base fired up” — and the online comments of Trump supporters that Miller was boasting about.
“Moderate students are most marginalized in political discussions on campuses” via Eli McKown-Dawson for the Tallahassee Democrat — A recent analysis by the DeVoe L. Moore Center found that students whose ideologies are more important to their identities were more comfortable expressing themselves on campus, regardless of whether they were liberal or conservative. While most media attention focuses on partisan extremes on either side, the moderate, less engaged students are likely the most affected based on my research. These students are more likely to report feeling uncomfortable expressing themselves than their politically engaged counterparts. Instead of focusing solely on the most extreme partisans on each campus who are comfortable expressing themselves, more attention should be given to less engaged students from both sides of the aisle. Supporting these moderate students is key to creating a culture of civility and respect for viewpoint diversity.
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— ALOE —
“Rainbow fentanyl — the newest Halloween scare” via the Florida Phoenix — With data dating back to 1958, one principal finding is simple: There’s no evidence that any child has ever been killed or seriously injured by a contaminated treat picked up while trick-or-treating. This often surprises people who assume that Halloween sadism is both very real and very common. Stories about contaminated treats are best understood as contemporary legends. This year, reporters began reaching out earlier than usual, in late September, and they wanted to talk about a new alleged threat: “rainbow fentanyl.”
“Keep your pumpkin from rotting this season with these tips” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — As Halloween creeps closer, you may find yourself craving to carve a pumpkin. But how do you keep the newly sliced pumpkin fresh? Gardening expert and horticulturalist Leslie Vincent has supplied tips on how to keep your pumpkins fresh all the way up to Oct. 31, unless, of course, you want the added scare of rot. Vincent suggests timing is key to keeping your pumpkin fresh and once you take your first stab at the orange fruit, much like Michael Myers’ victims, its time is limited. If you want your pumpkin to be in pristine condition for the big day, Vincent recommends buying a locally sourced pumpkin around 14 days before Halloween and carving 10 days before Oct. 31.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to former state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, Mark Hollis, Madeline Rose, Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph, and Ray Seaman of Progress Florida. Today would have been former Rep. Kristin Jacobs‘s birthday. I still have a voicemail from her saved on my phone. We all miss her very much.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.
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