Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.28.22

Good Friday morning.

Boutique lobbying firm PinPoint Results is adding Jason Maine to its advocacy team.

Maine joins the growing PinPoint Advocacy Team as a partner. Maine has served in the legal departments of multiple state agencies and previously worked as a prosecutor in Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit.

Maine man: Jason Maine makes a big move to PinPoint Results.

“We are so pleased to have Jason join our team. Jason brings extensive experience and knowledge of government to the table having served under the Scott Administration in various senior roles including as General Counsel for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Department of Elder Affairs,” founder and managing partner Tanya Jackson said.

Firm President Robert Beck added, “Jason is a problem solver, a collaborator, and a gentleman with deep relationships in state government. With the addition of Jason to our team, we are strengthening our ability to meet the needs of our clients in various regulatory and contractual arenas. He knows how to help ‘business do business’ with government.”

Maine holds a bachelor’s degree from Saint Leo University, a law degree from Florida State University, and served 10 years in the U.S. Air Force.

He joins a lobbying team that includes Jackson, Beck, former House Speaker Pro-Tempore Marti Coley, Bryan Cherry and Andrea Gheen.

___

Other items on my radar:

🙅‍♀️ — Neither party deserves to govern: A majority of likely voters believe neither major political party has made the case for their right to govern after the November election. That’s despite findings that Americans are largely split when it comes to which party they’ll vote for this Midterm Election. An Ipsos KnowledgePanel poll found that 51% of Democrats hadn’t earned another two years controlling the federal government while only 39% said they had, according to FiveThirtyEight. Meanwhile, 55% of respondents said Republicans don’t deserve to be given control in the next Congress, while only 35% said they did. While it looks a little less grim for Democrats based on those numbers alone, that may not be the case. The same poll had similar results when it came to voters’ top concern, which is the economy and inflation, an area where Republicans historically have performed better than Democrats.

😝 — Donald Trump isn’t waiting for 2024 to snub Ron DeSantis: The former President is planning to rally Florida Republicans just two days before the Nov. 8 General Election. Sen. Marco Rubio will be there. DeSantis won’t. That is by design, CNN analyst Chris Cillizza speculates. Instead, “it’s the latest in a series of verbal snubs that Trump has directed” at DeSantis ahead of a potential matchup between the two in 2024. Trump has made little secret on his thoughts of DeSantis’ rise to fame as “America’s Governor,” frequently reminding voters that he “made” DeSantis when he endorsed him in the Governor’s race four years ago and, in media interviews, that “I’d beat him like I would beat everyone else.” Cillizza’s analysis also points to Trump’s comment that DeSantis’ help with Colorado Republican Senate nominee Joe O’Dea, who Trump does not support, was a “BIG MISTAKE.” The takeaway: “Trump is very well aware of the threat that DeSantis poses.”

⚖️ — The legal system is working better on Trump than you might think: Think the former President gets away with too much and might again? Think again. Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin argues in her latest piece that “even the Supreme Court, which has gone off the rails to achieve right-wing partisan ends, has not bailed out the former President.” She lists myriad cases involving Trumpworld, including the more than 880 people arrested in connection with Jan. 6, attempts to compel members of Trump’s inner circle to talk and denied efforts to block subpoenas, among others. That “no one has decided to halt the investigations (into Trump) simply because Trump is a former President … should give Americans confidence in prosecutors and the courts.” The bottom line, she writes, “we might still be a nation of laws.”

🧯 — The Jan. 6 rioters next door: Florida is home to more people charged for various offenses related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and 29 of them live or lived in the Tampa Bay area. A Tampa Bay Times investigation into the 29 individuals found the “most striking feature may be the sheer ordinariness of its members.” Business owner. Parents. First-time voters. Homeowners. Some are in jail or prison. Some are awaiting legal proceedings. Some have served their time. “They all chased some version of the American Dream.” Read more here.

⚰️ — By removing the death penalty, Florida failed to adequately denounce Nikolas Cruz: As time has passed since a jury, unable to reach unanimous consent, failed to impose the death penalty on the Parkland shooter, outrage has quieted. But that doesn’t mean it has gone away. As guest columnist Robert Blecker, a professor emeritus at New York Law School and self-proclaimed retributivist, explains, the Parkland victims’ families aren’t the only ones who feel wronged by his life sentence in lieu of death. Retribution is not simply revenge, Blecker writes; rather “it demands that punishment must be limited and proportional. As his headline questions, if not for Cruz and his monstrous crimes, who is the death penalty for? Blecker makes the case for the death penalty to uphold justice for the worst of the worst and rejects the notion that life in prison is worse than death by illustrating points from Cruz’s phone log in prison in which he looked forward to a healthier lifestyle. Read more here.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@RonFilipkowski: When I signed in to vote yesterday in FL, they rejected my first signature because it wasn’t close enough to my driver’s license signature. I signed again and they accepted it. Had that been a mail-in ballot, my vote would have been rejected.

Tweet, tweet:

@Teri_Kanefield: It seems to me that the point of this story is that even with everything we know about Trump, the Republican Party still bows to him and hails him as the leader. Theory: They like him BECAUSE he’s a lawbreaker and insurrectionist. That’s the appeal.

Tweet, tweet:

@fineout: So here’s some local political intrigue. @FlaDems chair Manny Diaz taking sides in TLH mayoral battle, supporting @MayorOfTLH John Dailey. Meanwhile, local GOP is telling its members to vote against (Kristin) Dozier

@dcherring: How’s Kanye’s funding for the Parler deal holdin’ up?

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

2022 General Election — 11; ‘The Crown’ Season 5 returns — 12; ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ premieres — 14; FITCon 2022 begins — 20; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 20; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 24; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 27; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 36; ‘Willow’ premieres on Disney+ — 36; 2022 Florida Chamber Annual Insurance Summit — 38; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 39; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 49; final Broadway performance of ‘The Music Man’ with Hugh Jackman — 65; Bruce Springsteen launches his 2023 tour in Tampa — 96; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 112; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 113; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 130; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 148; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 172; 2023 Session Sine Die — 189; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 189; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 217; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 266; ‘‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 273; Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 371; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 518; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 574; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 637; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 637; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 679; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 742; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 840; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 917. ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,106.

— TOP STORY —

Number of Republican ballots already cast now exceeds Democratic votes in Florida” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The number of registered Republicans who already voted ahead of Florida’s Nov. 8 election now exceeds that of Democrats.

Fresh Take Florida’s tracking database showed by 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 27, Republicans overtook Democrats. At that point, 794,199 Republicans had already had mail-in ballots received or had voted early. A total of 793,066 Democrats had voted by that point, along with 372,571 registered with no party or with smaller parties. That lead continued to expand through the day.

Republican ballots take the lead, not a good sign for Democrats.

While Republican voters typically outperform Democrats by the time Election Day wraps, it’s unusual to see that type of turnout 12 days out. That has been especially unusual after Trump criticized mail-in voting as susceptible to fraud.

The shift has taken place since in-person early voting became available to most Florida voters. Leading into this week, Democrats still had an edge when all ballots received came through the mail.

But Republican officials continue to encourage voting by any method available legally in Florida.

“Our turnout machine is working,” said Joe Gruters, Republican Party of Florida Chair. “We passed the Democrats today in actual votes and we are never going to give that up.”

— 2022 —

Joe Biden making two South Florida stops next week ahead of Election Day” via NBC Miami — Biden will make two South Florida stops next Tuesday, one week before voters head to the polls in the Midterm Election. Biden, who is scheduled to attend a fundraising reception in Fort Lauderdale for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, will also take part in a “Get Out the Vote” rally in Miami Gardens. The Miami Gardens event will take place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Florida Memorial University Wellness Center. Biden was scheduled to come to Fort Lauderdale on Sept. 27, but the event was canceled due to Hurricane Ian making landfall the next day in southwest Florida. Biden last made an appearance in South Florida in 2021 after the collapse of the Champlain Towers in Surfside.

Joe Biden is taking an eleventh-hour campaign trip to Florida.

Ron DeSantis hasn’t returned $213,000 from man charged in an illegal donor scheme” via Sheridan Wall of the Miami Herald — DeSantis has millions at his disposal, yet his campaign has not returned $213,000 in contributions from a fugitive charged with making illegal straw donations. The donations came from Ahmad “Andy” Khawaja, the owner of an online payments processing company called Allied Wallet, Inc. Khawaja, described in court filings as a fugitive, currently lives abroad and is fighting extradition. Campaign finance records indicate that neither the DeSantis campaign nor the Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC ever returned or gave away Khawaja’s contributions, even after the Justice Department indicted Khawaja and eight others for conspiracy to conceal excessive campaign contributions, among other related charges.

Happening today — Early voting expands to Citrus, Clay and Jackson counties. All counties must offer early voting from Oct. 29 to Nov. 5 but are allowed to start earlier.

Email insights: Florida Democrats claim DeSantis is ‘terrified’ of Donald Trump” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A new email, framed as a reaction to this week’s gubernatorial debate, contends that DeSantis is “terrified” of Trump, amid new suggestions that tensions continue between Trump and his endorsed candidate four years ago. “Ron DeSantis did himself no favors with his debate performance. Voters in Florida and across the country saw Charlie Crist dominate a weak candidate who is terrified of getting on Donald Trump’s bad side and unable to answer simple questions about his extreme abortion ban or whether he’s planning to serve out a full term,” said FDP spokesperson Travis Reuther. The question of whether DeSantis intends, if re-elected, to serve his full second term is still unanswered, despite extended prodding from Crist on the debate stage.

Newspapers line up behind Charlie Crist in Governor’s race; how much does it matter?” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — Crist has picked up his third endorsement by a major Florida newspaper, this time, from the Tampa Bay Times, under the headline: “A decent man or a bully?” Previously, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post recommended voting for Crist. “I’m incredibly grateful to earn the support of my hometown paper, the Tampa Bay Times, as we work to defeat Ron DeSantis’ divisive games and bring decency back to the Sunshine State,” Crist said in a written statement. “Floridians are good people and deserve a Governor who will unite them, not divide for his own political ambitions — I’ll be that Governor.”

Charlie Crist gets the thumbs-up from newspapers. Will it help? Image via AP.

Happening today — Crist will hold a news conference, joined by local mothers and their daughters who will be affected by the state’s abortion ban: 3 p.m., Broward County. Location upon RSVP at [email protected].

Floridians with past convictions wary of voting after wave of arrests” via Amanda Rabines of the Orlando Sentinel — Those arrested for casting a ballot in the 2020 Election had previous convictions for murder or felony sex offenses, which are exceptions to the rights restoration amendment. But in almost all instances, the accused ex-offenders were issued voter registration cards before they went to the polls — despite their ineligibility. Neil Volz, deputy director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, said more than 216,000 felons were registered to vote in August, adding that these individuals need help from the state to determine if they’re eligible to vote. “After the August arrests we definitely saw these anxieties about the confusion in the system,” he said. “If we can get the verification process fixed on the front end, then nobody needs to get arrested on the back end, nor should they.”

— 2022: CONGRESSIONAL —

GOP canvasser didn’t tell cops brutal beating was political until after Marco Rubio tweeted” via Nicholas Nehamas, Sarah Blaskey, Verónica Egui Brito, and David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — The Republican Party canvasser who was brutally beaten in Hialeah on Sunday did not say the attack was politically motivated when police officers first interviewed him that evening, according to a police spokesman. An initial incident report said nothing about politics. But on Monday morning, after talking to the victim’s father, Sen. Rubio tweeted that the canvasser was attacked “by 4 animals who told him Republicans weren’t allowed in their neighborhood.” When Hialeah police re-interviewed the canvasser, Christopher Monzon, hours after the Rubio tweet, he told them he believed politics played a role in his beating.

Rubio puts $160K into broadcast ads — U.S. Sen. Rubio’s re-election campaign has booked $160,705 in ad time for the final week ahead of the Midterm Election. According to AdImpact, the new buy will run on broadcast from Nov. 1 through Election Day in five media markets. The breakdown shows $60,480 heading to West Palm Beach, $59,800 to Jax, $31,250 to Miami, $5,025 to Tampa and $4,150 to Orlando. As of Thursday, Rubio and political committees supporting his campaign have spent $24.1 million on ads while challenger Val Demings and her backers have spent $29.2 million.

Marco Rubio hits the airwaves.

Happening today — Demings will speak with voters, including at FAMU’s 2022 Homecoming celebration joined by CBC Chair Joyce Beatty and Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick: 8:30 a.m., local restaurant meet and greet, Tallahassee; 12:20 p.m., FAMU Set Friday Block Party, Tallahassee. Locations upon RSVP at [email protected].

Kat Cammack buys $64K cable flight — Republican U.S. Rep. Cammack recently launched a new ad and backed it with a $63,597 media buy. According to AdImpact, the flight includes four media markets — Gainesville, Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville — and will put her ad on cable through Nov. 7. Networks in the buy include CNBC, CNN, Discovery, ESPN, Food Network, Fox News, HGTV, Lifetime, MSNBC, TBS and USA. The buy coincided with the release of Cammack’s latest ad, which continues the farm theme from her past spots and says the GOP Congresswoman is “no chicken” when it comes to standing up to Democrats in Congress.

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



— 2022: LEGISLATIVE —

Credit union group banks on Jimmy Patronis re-election” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The League of Southeastern Credit Unions is endorsing Patronis, lauding him for keeping Florida creditworthy. President Samantha Beeler said the League was “happy to endorse Jimmy Patronis.” “He has shown his ability to keep Florida in a healthy fiscal state with an outstanding AAA credit rating. We look forward to seeing him continue his work and partner with credit unions to further provide financial health for Floridians.” Patronis accepted the endorsement as evidence Florida is on the right path: “I believe that Florida is the best state to not only live but to invest as well. Our leaders have worked fearlessly to keep our state in optimal fiscal health so that when people move here, they know their money is being spent in the right places and that the rest will stay in their pockets,”

Loranne Ausley touts bipartisan support in new ad — Sen. Ausley’s re-election campaign released a new broadcast ad featuring SD 3 voters from opposite ends of the political spectrum voicing their support for the incumbent. “Look, if Sen. Ausley can get me to agree with a crazy Republican like him,” a Democratic voter says before a Republican interjects, “And me with a crybaby liberal like him” … “Well, you know she’s getting s*** done for North Florida.” The ad drops as Ausley’s opponent, Republican Corey Simon, released a new attack ad warning voters not to be “fooled” by “radicals like Loranne Ausley.”

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



Republicans now outnumber Democrats in SD 10” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Outsized success in voter registration for Florida Republicans has changed the balance in the makeup of a key Senate district. As of the Oct. 11 deadline for voters to register to take part in the Nov. 8 election, more Republicans now live in Senate District 10 than Democrats. A book closing report from the state shows 133,173 registered Republicans in SD 10. That compares to 132,446 registered Democrats, a difference of 727 voters. That’s a minuscule margin in a district with 389,565 voters in all, but also marks a turnaround for Republicans at a critical moment.

Brian Mast, Mike Waltz condemn Janet Cruz attack on Jay Collins” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Two Republican Congressmen and military veterans are weighing in on a controversial ad in a Tampa-area state Senate race. U.S. Reps. Mast and Waltz are rallying to the defense of Collins after what a news release calls the “latest attack ad” from Democratic Sen. Cruz in the competitive Senate District 14 race. Invoking Collins’ Purple Heart, the Congressmen attack Cruz for daring to air a negative spot against a military veteran. “Just because Jay Collins and I lost legs, in combat, defending Janet Cruz’s freedom of speech, it does not mean she needs to squander that freedom spewing the garbage she has on television attacking him,” Mast said.

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



Webster Barnaby attempts to deny deep-rooted Rick Karl a House seat” via Mark Harper of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Rep. Barnaby, who squeaked out a 30-vote victory over another incumbent representative, Elizabeth Fetterhoff, in a hotly contested Republican Primary, now faces a Democratic opponent with deep ties in Volusia County. Karl, a DeLand lawyer and former director of aviation and economic resources for Volusia County, says he’s running as a “serious person” willing to roll up his sleeves to face “serious problems” in Florida. “I’m not doing this for fun,” Karl said in an interview this week. “This is probably the most competitive House race in the state.” The two are running in District 29, newly remapped by the Legislature to cover a large swath of West Volusia, including DeLand and Deltona.

— STATEWIDE —

DeSantis’ old law firm received millions in state funds” via Roger Sollenberger of Daily Beast — According to records, the DeSantis administration has steered millions of dollars in state business to outside law firms with ties to him — including his old employer. Holland & Knight — where DeSantis worked as a civil litigator — was roped up in a scandal about political pressure from the Governor’s Office to scuttle a 2020 lawsuit against the state. The same firm was also handed a contract to defend Florida in a major felons’ voting rights case that has in recent weeks resurfaced in a viral controversy about voter scare tactics. Holland & Knight was the third-largest corporate source of campaign funds during his 2011-2018 congressional tenure. The company contributed a total of $44,300 in employee and PAC donations and threw another $50,000 behind DeSantis’ 2018 gubernatorial bid.

With their licenses in jeopardy, Florida teachers unsure how the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law will be applied” via Ileana Najarro of Education Week — At the start of every school year, Cory Bernaert, a kindergarten teacher in the Manatee County district in Florida introduces himself and his partner in a welcome email to families and students. He’s open about his LGBTQ identity to build rapport with his students and their families. But with the passage of the state’s Parental Rights in Education law, one notable change is gnawing at the back of his mind: the possibility of losing his license. Bernaert and other educators have questions about what constitutes intentional classroom instruction of gender identity and sexual orientation. Neither the amended rule nor the state law make it clear. The Florida Department of Education did not respond to a query seeking clarity about what instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in K-3 means.

Teachers are unsure how the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law will be applied. Image via AP.

Florida Chamber creates new advisory council to fight old battle over lawsuit limitations” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — It’s not new for the Florida Chamber to advocate for lawsuit limitations. What is new, though, is the formation of a council, composed of its member companies’ general counsels, litigation directors and risk managers, that will help strategize and find ways to improve the state’s civil justice system. Championed by Charles E. Bailes III, Chair of Florida Chamber board of directors and Chair & CEO of ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, the group is called the Council of General Counsels and is Chaired by Jason Gonzalez, managing partner for Shutts and Bowen.

DEP air quality data shows emissions in Florida are the lowest on record” via Florida Politics — Emissions in the state of Florida are the lowest on record, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), despite seasonal impacts from Saharan dust and wildfires. On Oct. 13, for example, the DEP website noted good air quality in every region it monitors, from the Panhandle to South Florida. The DEP measures the Air Quality Index, with levels 0-50 being good, 51-100 as moderate and 101-150 as unhealthy. Throughout the year, air quality in the state has consistently met hourly air quality standards and only occasionally exceeded daily standards, according to monthly monitoring reports on the DEP’s air quality reporting webpage.

Venomous coral snake found in Florida looks nothing like it’s supposed to, experts say” via Mark Price of the Bradenton Herald — Highly venomous eastern coral snakes just got a lot more intimidating, after a Florida biology student found one that doesn’t look like the photos in textbooks. Coral snakes are famously beautiful, with “alternating rings of red, yellow and black completely encircling its slender, cylindrical body.” However, the one found Oct. 19 was bright yellow with black splotches and a hint of pink. The aberrant snake, which was killed by a property owner, came to light when University of South Florida student Tommy Hamrick posted photos on the “Snake Identification: Discussion and Resources” Facebook page.

— AFTERMATH —

Florida’s First Lady, Casey DeSantis campaign donors build $50M Florida Disaster Fund after Ian” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — As of Wednesday, more than $50 million has been raised and $7 million distributed to national, state and local nonprofits and support organizations aiding in the disaster recovery. While the efforts have been universally praised across the political spectrum, at least one organization worries about how much oversight the distribution of the funds is getting. “It’s really tricky to weigh in on this because the money is so needed, but I have some concerns with donations from campaign donors being used to curry favor with the Governor,” said Ben Wilcox, research director for Integrity Florida, a nonprofit government watchdog group.

Hurricane Ian’s lucrative cleanup deals generate new storm” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — It has been a month since Hurricane Ian wiped out parts of southwest Florida. Now multimillion-dollar cleanup contracts are generating new tempests in the Category 4 storm’s wake. Contractors who remove debris and perform post-storm repairs are fighting over local government contracts that could be worth tens of millions in tax dollars. The skirmishes offer a preview of likely fights over local, state and federal funds that will be distributed over the next several months to help southwest Florida get back on its feet. A case in point is the recent contentious expansion of a land-based storm debris removal contract that had been put out to bid well before the hurricane.

Hurricane Ian poses a golden opportunity to clean up.

Turned down for federal Hurricane Ian assistance? FEMA officials say don’t stop trying” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Applicants who receive a denial letter after applying for Hurricane Ian relief from FEMA should not take that as the government’s final answer. Instead, officials say, that’s a signal to start an appeal process. “People see that first paragraph in that letter, and they just throw it away and think that’s the end of the road,” FEMA spokeswoman Renee Bafalis said Wednesday. “But we want you to know that’s the first step in the process and we want you to appeal until you’re satisfied.” There are a variety of reasons a first application for aid may be denied, though chief among them is that an adjuster with a property owner’s insurance company hasn’t finished providing an assessment on what the policy will cover.

Thousands of toys being given out Friday to kids affected by Hurricane Ian” via Nancy J. Semon of the Port Charlotte Sun — A semi-truck filled with toys is bound for Port Charlotte. Thousands of free toys will be given to children who suffered losses from Hurricane Ian. The giveaway is 3-6 p.m. Friday — or until the last toy has been given out — at Punta Gorda Association of Realtors, 3320 Loveland Boulevard. Ashlee’s Toy Closet is a Nevada-based nonprofit organization delivering toys “for children of all ages, 0 through 18,” Ericka Smith said. Ericka Smith’s daughter, Ashlee, started the charity when she was 8, about 15 years ago. Ashlee had lost all of her own toys in a house fire. Later on, her firefighter father was working at the 2007 Angora Fire site in Lake Tahoe.

‘Labor of love’: Panama City park restored into neighborhood jewel after Hurricane Michael” via Ebonee Burrell of The Panama City News Herald — An aging park has been restored to a beautiful neighborhood centerpiece for The Cove community. City officials and residents gathered Wednesday morning for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the restoration of Sudduth Park. The park at 1500 E. Second Court in The Cove neighborhood underwent an improvement project, which added new and refurbished amenities after it sustained significant damage from Hurricane Michael. The improvements include a new baseball field, new dugouts, a refurbished concession stand, new utilities, a drainage system, new parking areas, a pavilion, picnic tables and park benches. In addition, the park will receive new playground equipment and an electronic scoreboard, which are expected to be delivered and installed in the coming months.

Universal theme parks post strong finances despite Hurricane Ian” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Hurricane Ian couldn’t damper Universal theme parks, which were still cash cows despite Orlando parks closing for two days from the storm last month. Company executives announced Universal Orlando broke a record for its highest EBITDA ever for a third quarter despite the costly storm that wreaked havoc in Fort Myers and caused flooding in Central Florida. The revelation came as Comcast released its latest earning reports that showed the theme park division revenue skyrocketing 42% to $2.1 billion for the third quarter, compared to 2021’s third quarter when the pandemic’s effects were stronger on the parks.

How did Hurricane Ian affect ‘Seashell Capital of the World’? Experts talk of Ian’s impacts” via Samantha Neely of the Fort Myers News-Press — Despite Hurricane Ian’s wrath on the famous island, Sanibel may continue to be the place for seashells by the seashore, but the storm’s effects could still cause a grim situation for the marine ecosystem. Following Ian’s Sept. 28 hit, some have wondered what the storm’s 155 mph winds and 12-foot storm surge would have on its Sanibel and its decorated coastline. Thousands travel to the “seashell capital of the world” every year, hoping to get a glimpse of the more than 250 types of seashells littering its 15 miles of beaches.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Biden to scrap Trump missile project but critics attack U.S. ‘nuclear overkill’” via Julian Borger of The Guardian — The Biden administration has confirmed it will cancel a submarine-launched nuclear cruise missile program begun by Trump, as part of its review of nuclear policy. The administration will also retire a gravity bomb, the B83-1, from its arsenal as part of its Nuclear Posture Review, but arms control advocates argued the changes from the Trump era did not go far enough. The administration is retaining another weapon variant introduced by Trump, a low-yield warhead called the W76-2, intended to deter an adversary like Russia using a low-yield weapon. The Democratic Party manifesto in 2020 had called the W76-2 “unnecessary, wasteful and indefensible.”

A hot mic caught Chuck Schumer chatting election strategy with Biden” via Nancy Vu of POLITICO — While in Syracuse, the majority leader was caught talking to Biden on the tarmac at Hancock International Airport, discussing the state of play for a number of Senate races. “It looks like the debate didn’t hurt us too much in Pennsylvania as of today, so that’s good. … We’re picking up steam in Nevada. … The state where we’re going downhill is Georgia. It’s hard to believe that they will go for Herschel Walker. … But our early turnout in Georgia, huge. Huge.” Schumer also mentioned Democrats were “in danger” of losing a seat, but it’s unclear which seat he was referring to.

Chuck Schumer gets caught on a hot mic.

House GOP wants answers on IRS leak” via Laura Weiss of Roll Call — House Ways and Means Republicans are renewing pressure on the Biden administration over a leak of taxpayer information to ProPublica last year, urging the Treasury Department to provide more public information on an investigation into the unauthorized disclosure. “Despite repeated efforts by Ways and Means Committee Republicans, the American people remain in the dark about who was responsible and how the Treasury Department allowed this to happen,” Republicans wrote Thursday in their letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. If Republicans take control of the House in next month’s Midterm Elections, the taxpayer data leak could become a bigger focus next year.

Rural areas to get $759M in grants for high-speed internet” via Josh Boak of The Associated Press — The Agriculture Department announced Thursday it is making available $759 million in grants and loans to enable rural communities to access high-speed internet, part of the broader $65 billion push for high-speed connectivity from last year’s infrastructure law. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and White House senior adviser Mitch Landrieu unveiled the grants during a visit to North Carolina. There are 49 recipients in 24 states. One is North Carolina’s AccessOn Networks, which will receive $17.5 million to provide broadband service to 100 businesses, 76 farms and 22 educational facilities in the state’s Halifax and Warren counties.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

Jan. 6 committee to seek interviews with Secret Service officials” via Rebecca Beitsch of The Hill — The House committee investigating the Capitol attack is planning to seek interviews with a half-dozen current and former Secret Service officials. Dates for the interviews have not yet been set. Among those the panel wishes to speak with are two men whose names were brought to the forefront of the probe following explosive testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who detailed a story relayed to her about how then-President Trump “lunged” at his security detail after being told they would not transport him to the Capitol to join his supporters. Those men are Tony Ornato, who briefly stepped away from the Secret Service to take a civil role as Trump’s deputy Chief of Staff, and Bobby Engel, who led Trump’s security detail that day.

Trump loses latest court bid to block Congress from getting his income tax returns” via Dan Mangan of CNBC — The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., denied Trump’s request to have the full lineup of judges on that court rehear his appeal of a lower court order requiring the Treasury Department to turn over those tax returns. A three-judge panel on the appeals court in August unanimously denied Trump’s appeal of the lower court decision. The new decision by the full appeals court, which had no noted dissents, sets the stage for Trump to make an expected request to the Supreme Court to hear his appeal. However, the court is not obligated to grant that request. The Ways and Means Committee first asked the Treasury Department in 2019 for Trump’s income tax returns and those of the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust and seven limited liability companies.

Donald Trump gets another legal smackdown.

A prospective juror in the Trump Org trial was excused after telling a judge Trump made him so sick to his guts that serving in the trial would be unhealthy” via Laura Italiano and Natalie Musumeci of Business Insider — A man summoned for jury duty in the New York criminal tax-fraud trial of former Trump’s international real-estate company was excused by a judge Thursday after saying the former commander in chief made him sick to his guts. The then-prospective juror, a middle-aged man, told Justice Juan Manuel Merchan of the New York Supreme Court on day three of jury selection in the Manhattan trial that he had “strong feelings” about Trump that “turned into a very visceral feeling in my gut” overnight. The man said he had not had feelings like that about the businessperson-turned-politician in the two years since Trump was President.

Overt U.S. antisemitism returns with Trump, Kanye West: ‘Something is different’” via Michelle Boorstein and Isaac Arnsdorf of The Washington Post — Longtime watchdogs of antisemitism say there is nothing new about the kinds of derogatory comments about Jews that the rapper Ye, formerly known as West, Trump, sundry far-right political candidates and others have made in recent weeks. But what has struck some experts is how blatant the comments about Jews are at a time when incidents of harassment, vandalism and violence against them have been at their highest levels since at least the 1970s. Recent data already showed that a majority of American Jews fear violence against them.

One of Dinesh D’Souza’s 2,000 alleged ‘mules’ sues, claiming defamation” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — After declaring that he won by “millions of votes,” Trump praised D’Souza’s film “2000 Mules” as being particularly useful to his effort to subvert his loss. The film claims that a group called True the Vote had compiled geolocation data to show people visiting multiple ballot drop boxes was augmented by video from those drop boxes — and who could argue with that? One person who could is Mark Andrews. “2000 Mules” shows Andrews depositing ballots in a drop box in Georgia two times before the election that year. As the footage airs, D’Souza speaks in a voice-over. “What you are seeing is a crime,” D’Souza says. “These are fraudulent votes.” The Georgia Bureau of Investigation established that the multiple ballots Andrews submitted were simply his and his family’s ballots — fully in compliance with state law.

How Mike Lindell’s pillow business propels the election denial movement” via Alexandra Berzon, Charles Homans and Ken Bensinger of The New York Times — Three days after federal agents seized his cellphone as part of an investigation into voting machine tampering, Lindell seemed energized and ready to sell pillows. He strode onstage at a rally of Trump supporters in western Idaho, defiantly waving a cellphone. Eric Trump greeted him with a hug. MyPillow has since early last year become a critical financial supporter of an expanding universe of right-wing podcasters and influencers, many of whom keep election misinformation coursing through the daily discourse.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

What’s behind Miami-Dade’s proposed charter amendments on seaport, airport, oaths?” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Two items on the Nov. 8 ballot would alter Miami-Dade County’s charter to beef up the county’s legal defenses of its “home rule” autonomy against some state action. One item would extend the oath of office taken by the mayor and Commissioners to add a loyalty provision to the charter itself, requiring officeholders to swear they will “support, protect and defend” Miami-Dade’s governing document. The other item would require a referendum before Miami-Dade could turn over Miami International Airport, PortMiami or certain toll roads to another government. Both proposed charter amendments stem from long-running tension between Miami-Dade officeholders and Florida lawmakers over the Legislature’s ability to rework how some major assets in the county are governed.

Miami-Dade votes on ‘home rule’ charter amendment. Image via Miami Herald.

Republicans have focused on education. Why is Miami-Dade GOP voting ‘No’ to hike teacher pay?” via Sommer Brugal of the Miami Herald — In the Midterm Elections, Miami-Dade voters can expect to see two county and several municipal referendums on the Nov. 8 ballot. But ahead of Election Day, the Miami-Dade County Republican Party is taking a stance on just one: The Miami-Dade County School Board property tax hike. On its official voter guide, the GOP is recommending voters vote ‘NO’ on the district’s ballot question that asks voters to increase a homeowner’s property tax rate for schools from 0.75 to 1.0 or $100 for every $100,000 in assessed taxable property value for the next four years, which, if successful, would raise $400 million to boost teacher pay and support school safety.

How to fix South Miami’s downtown is the big issue in the city’s November election” via Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald — Javier Fernandez is making his return to politics as a candidate for Mayor of South Miami, running against one of the city’s most experienced leaders, Horace Feliu, who previously served three terms as Mayor. This time, Fernandez, a former state legislator, seeks to spearhead change on the local level, with plans to reinvigorate the center of the “City of Pleasant Living,” enhance its parks and public spaces, and expedite the transition from septic tanks to a sewer system.

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Ex-Broward charter President sentenced to 40 months in prison in embezzling over $600K from school accounts” via Shira Moolten of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A former Broward County charter school President was sentenced to 40 months in prison for taking over $600,000 of school funds and using the money on personal expenses like vehicle payments and rent. In March, a federal jury in Miami convicted Jimika Williams of two counts of theft of federal funds and 18 counts of wire fraud. She had faced up to 10 years in prison on each charge of the theft of government programs, and up to 20 years for each of the wire fraud charges, in addition to fines and restitution. Williams served as the president of the Advancement of Education in Scholars Corporation (AESC), a not-for-profit organization that ran Paramount Charter School in Sunrise.

School resource officers said three Port St. Lucie teens were passing along gun on campus” via Lamaur Stancil of Treasure Coast Newspapers — School resource officers recovered a gun and ammunition Thursday at Treasure Coast High School and tied three students to handling the weapon, Port St. Lucie police said. Based on word-of-mouth picked up by a teacher, the officer determined two 16-year-old students and a 15-year-old were involved, police said. All three were charged with possession of a firearm on school property and unlicensed carry of a concealed firearm. They were taken to the Department of Juvenile Justice in Fort Pierce. Treasure Coast High is located at 1000 S.W. Darwin Blvd. The city’s school resource officer worked with a school resource deputy from the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office and school officials to determine who was involved.

Miami-Dade agency putting $7 million to work enhancing Black business community” via Michael Butler of the Miami Herald — With financial support from Miami-Dade County, the Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust announced plans to use a little more than $7 million for programs to give stronger support to Miami’s Black business community. In a fireside chat Tuesday night with WHQT Hot 105 radio host Rodney Baltimore, William Diggs, the trust’s executive director, spoke at length about his organization’s mission supporting Black businesses in Miami and emphasized this is the first time the group has gotten this much money at one time to use for a wide range of programs. “Our whole role is to create areas in our community that are sustainable so that from a long-term perspective, we can make sure that Black commerce lives,” Diggs said.

After five years and much hand-wringing, Boca’s Mizner Park will transform into performing arts center” via Jasmine Fernández of The Palm Beach Post — A vote five years in the making passed on Oct. 12, when the Boca Raton City Council approved a plan to revamp the city’s Mizner Park Amphitheater, transforming it into a multistage performing arts and events center. The Council initially was set to vote on Aug. 22, but the vote was postponed first, because of the wording of a damages clause in the contract and concerns over the cost of construction and the project’s timeline; and then delayed by Hurricane Ian. Nearly two months later, all three issues were addressed: Language allowing both parties to feel comfortable around the issue of damages was presented to the Council, updated numbers were provided by the construction firm and the project’s timeline was shortened by 30 months.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

As voting begins on Orange sales tax, Jerry Demings still faces questions on spending plans” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Pushing for a penny-per-dollar sales tax increase for transportation, Orange County Mayor Demings said his proposal has won broad-based support from business groups and labor, though some voters say they still doubt the county will keep its spending promises. “I do hear a lot of questions swirling around accountability — ‘What’s gonna keep you from doing something else with these dollars,’” Demings said this week of queries from voters weighing the question of raising their own taxes as housing and other costs spike. The day after residents began casting ballots on a measure that could shape his legacy as Mayor, Demings in a 45-minute interview Tuesday sought to address lingering concerns for any voters.

Jerry Demings is in the spotlight over fiscal accountability.

Palm Bay City Council candidate Nathan White backs out of debate with Kenny Johnson at last minute” via Finch Walker of Florida Today — Just before an online debate scheduled with incumbent Palm Bay City Council candidate Johnson Wednesday night, challenger White backed out, citing concerns the debate was being run unfairly, the host said. The debate was broadcast through Palm Bay Live’s social media platforms at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Kevin Vaccianna of Palm Bay Live Incorporated, a nonprofit media outlet focused on the Palm Bay community, said White withdrew just before the debate was set to begin. In an email, White confirmed he did not feel the debate would be fair.

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Watchdog files FEC complaint against nonprofits tied to ‘ghost’ candidate scandal” via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — The dark-money nonprofit central to Florida’s 2020 “ghost” candidate scandal, as well as several related organizations, may have violated federal campaign finance laws in order to conceal political spending, according to a newly filed complaint by a legal watchdog group. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit, filed the Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint Wednesday, naming Grow United, Inc., its founder Richard Alexander, and a collection of other nonprofits and political action committees. In a statement, CREW President Noah Bookbinder said the FEC “must act and investigate whether these dark money groups broke the law and hold them accountable.”

Investor sues Ponte Health over Orlando Vertical City project” via Laura Kinsler of the Orlando Sentinel — Three years ago, when she presented her concept for a $1.1 billion tower in downtown Orlando’s North Quarter that would combine senior living, assisted living, health care research and medical services into a Vertical Medical City, Tabitha Ponte was lauded as a visionary. Now, in a lawsuit, one of her original equity investors in the deal is calling her something else: a fraud. MOA Capital LLC, the successor to Tampa-based Phoenix Construction LLC, has sued Ponte and her company alleging that she committed fraud and breach of contract after accepting $600,000 from the investor.

Ormond Beach parent files disability discrimination complaints against Volusia County Schools” via Danielle Johnson of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Anni Suadi says the district “warehouses” students with disabilities in segregated “building 15” at the high school “like it used to be back in 1950,” and that Volusia County Schools has not followed her son Lance Avery’s legally binding individualized education plan. The actions, which she calls “immoral,” “unethical” and “illegal” in her complaint, have deprived him of opportunities to participate in electives and be included with general education students. She’s pulled him out of school until a change is made to include her son and other students.

Brevard Commission makes last-minute push to raise towing rates before Curt Smith leaves office” via Ralph Chapoco of Florida Today — With only days remaining before Brevard County Commission Vice Chair Smith leaves office, Commissioners are expediting potential approval of one of his signature policy initiatives, a review of rates that towing companies are allowed to charge the public. Smith announced he wanted to continue with the towing ordinance he had originally removed from Tuesday’s Commission meeting because of a request from Sheriff Wayne Ivey. He is still hoping to get it through the Commission and adopted into the county before his tenure expired. “A lot of time has been invested into this, both by the sheriff’s department and our legal department in the last four or five months. I have really been a bystander, guiding where they went with this.”

‘Devil In The Grove’ author says he solved a controversial 1987 Osceola murder case” via Cristóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel — It was a relief when Daniel Otte walked out the Osceola County Jail in October 1987, dressed in a button-down shirt and tie and standing next to his girlfriend as he spoke to loved ones who gathered to await his release. Otte had spent the previous six months behind bars, accused of killing cabdriver Joseph Lavair in Intercession City on a late April night and robbing him of $180. Following a mistrial, he was later found not guilty after a state’s witness took the stand and accused a detective of threatening to take away her children if she didn’t pin the murder on Otte.

LOCAL: SW. FL —

Collier County Commissioners advance 60-day landlord notice for rent hikes of more than 5%” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — Collier County may soon require landlords to give a 60-day notice when hiking rent for housing by more than 5%. On Tuesday, Commissioners agreed by a vote of 3-2 to move ahead with the new rules. The rules would only apply in the unincorporated area, not in cities, to tenants with one year or more leases. Before the vote, Commissioners tweaked the proposed ordinance to simplify it and address concerns raised by landlords and their representatives, including the Naples Area Board of Realtors.

Southwest Florida is getting back in business a month after Hurricane Ian” via Tamara Pigott for the Fort Myers News-Press — Hope and resiliency are the two words that describe what we are seeing in our community as we continue on the road to recovery. An amazing rebound is taking place. A spirit of generosity, help and support has given us much encouragement as we work through these tough days. I keep saying, don’t count us out. We will be back. When Hurricane Ian tore through the area, the damage was unimaginable. And it’s still hard to get our thoughts around what has happened. But the last four weeks have demonstrated the strength and determination to move forward. And each day we are seeing signs of hope.

BayWater’s back State Rep. Adam Botana said his family’s business has reopened — partially. Bay Water Boat Club & Rentals temporarily closed in the wake of Hurricane Ian so ownership could assess the damage and ensure that it’s safe for customers. Botana, a Bonita Springs Republican, on Thursday said that the club side is up and running. The rental side is on track to reopen by Thanksgiving, which this year falls on Nov. 24.

Adam Botana is back in business. Sort of.

Despite slowing, Sarasota-Manatee housing market still near top of U.S. ranking” via Derek Gilliam of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Real estate statistics on September home sales in the Sarasota-Manatee County area continued to show a slowing market, but continued strength on price. “We are continuing the trend that we’ve seen for several months now where the number of closed sales is dropping, and prices are leveling off,” said 2022 RASM President Tony Veldkamp. Yet, the area’s real estate market is still considered one of the healthiest and strongest in the United States. The Wall Street Journal this week released a ranking of its top housing markets, placing the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton metro area at fourth among the top 300 largest metro areas in the country.

Helicopter crashes in Florida’s Myakka State Park near Sarasota, officials say” via Jessica De Leon of the Bradenton Herald — A helicopter crashed inside Myakka River State Park late Thursday afternoon. Just before 5 p.m., the small Robinson helicopter crashed inside the park just east of State Road 72, near the intersection of North Powerline Trail and Windy Sawgrass Trail. The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, Sarasota County Fire Department and Florida park rangers all responded to the scene. Neither of the two people on board were injured, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Kaitlyn Perez said. All aircraft crashes are investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board. The helicopter landed in a swampy area of the park, one first responder called over the radio.

‘A UFO! No, wait …’ Upside-down tent seen flying over Florida delights social media” via Mark Price of the Bradenton Herald — An upside-down tent was seen floating over Florida, but the strangest part of the incident is that many Floridians don’t seem surprised. “Meanwhile, Florida continues to Florida,” one person wrote on Twitter. Photos of the flying tent were posted on social media by meteorologist Matt Devitt of station WINK in Fort Myers, and he admitted “this was a new one.” “How crazy is this?!” Devitt wrote in an Oct. 26 Facebook post. “Large tent spotted randomly floating high in the sky above Iona in Southwest Florida on Tuesday. Thankfully, nobody was in it!”

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Final attack lines: Women hit John Dailey with complaints; Mayor knocks Kristin Dozier over Bragg vote” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — The hits keep coming in the fiercely fought race for Tallahassee Mayor, with incumbent Dailey, challenger Dozier and their supporters doubling down on attacks amid the start of early voting. After facing relentless criticism from Dozier about his support for $27 million in Blueprint funds for Doak Campbell Stadium, Dailey has been hammering her over another stadium project — the $10 million Blueprint spend on FAMU’s Bragg Stadium, which she opposed. The Mayor has a digital billboard at a prominent south-side intersection telling voters in Rattler green and orange letters that Dozier voted against Bragg while he “voted for FAMU.” At the same time, Dozier and her surrogates continue to label Dailey as a bully who doesn’t work well with women in particular.

The hits keep coming in the Tallahassee mayoral race.

Voting in Flagler County? What you need to know about the half-cent sales tax for schools” via Danielle Johnson of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — When Flagler County residents vote by mail or go to the polls this election, they will not only vote for state and local representatives to serve them, but also for or against a referendum to continue a half-cent sales tax to support Flagler Schools. The tax, which was first approved in 2002 and goes up for renewal every 10 years, funds technology, school safety and improvements to facilities, and the money stays in Flagler County, unlike some other funds that the state does not return to the school district. “If we did not achieve the voters’ support on this half-cent, our school district will look very different over the course of the next couple of years,” Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt said.

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The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, a private security firm that does what it wants” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Interim Jacksonville Sheriff Pat Ivey has made one thing clear during his short reign: Elections come and go, but JSO has its own line of succession. T.K. Waters, a Republican, and Lakesha Burton, a Democrat, are both retired and respected veterans of JSO who are running to replace the appointed interim sheriff, yet only Waters is permitted to display JSO insignia and dispatch uniformed cops on his campaign’s behalf. While Burton has since eschewed the use of JSO insignia, Ivey has allowed Waters to wear his own former uniform and to flank himself with uniformed deputies during campaign events.

‘We are defending democracy’: Group that filed Jacksonville redistricting lawsuit submits own maps to City Council” via Jim Piggot of News4Jax — It’s a fight that could change the political landscape of Jacksonville. Redrawing the boundary lines of City Council and school board members. “We are defending democracy here,” said Dr. Marcella Washington. “And we’re saying to the members of the City Council, look at where we are and look where we need to go.” The group that took the city to federal court over its district lines is submitting its own plan for redistricting to the city Council Tuesday night. Earlier this month, a federal judge agreed with groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP and the Northside Coalition that the maps the city drew were illegal. The city is appealing against that decision, but it is also drawing new maps of its own, in case the city loses the appeal.

Why Fort Walton Beach City Council is pausing plans for new City Hall complex” via Devon Ravine of the Northwest Florida Daily News — The City Council put the brakes on plans for a new City Hall complex during a meeting Tuesday. In June, the Council approved paying $62,283 to Ajax Building Co. of Midway and Sam Marshall Architects of Pensacola and directed them to analyze three options for a new City Hall complex and auditorium. On Tuesday, the Council heard about those options from the president of Sam Marshall Architects. He presented an assessment of the current City Hall complex and offered options for the three potential sites under consideration.

Jobs, housing and crime are top of mind in Pensacola, but survey says the future is bright” via Kevin Robinson of the Pensacola News Journal — Despite concerns over the job market and the economy, a new survey indicates residents of Pensacola are generally more optimistic about the community’s direction, future and leadership than they were last year. Last week, Quint and Rishy Studer, CivicCon and the Pensacola Young Professionals released the results of the 2022 Quality of Life Survey. Since 2008, the annual survey has polled locals on how they think the community is performing in key metrics such as safety, education, job opportunities and governance. The key overarching question is whether residents think the city and county are on the right or wrong track.

— TOP OPINION —

Democrats debate themselves: Why do we suck?” via John Harris of POLITICO — There are two, closely related reasons why the soul-searching this year started early, even as there remains a decent (though some polls suggest dwindling) chance it won’t be needed.

One, candidates and progressive commentators are describing 2022 as the most important Midterm Election in generations. Someday, perhaps, we will have an election in which people say, “You know, this one is actually not that big a deal — there’s little at stake either way.” Still, this year — with Trump’s past, present and future still looming over all American politics — does genuinely qualify as consequential. Which means the after-election ruminations will similarly be among the most consequential.

Two, Democrats are genuinely confronting a political moment that for most defies comprehension. As Nancy Pelosi put it in an interview with The New York Times, explaining her against-the-current optimism: “Part of it is, I can’t believe anybody would vote for these people.”

In the 30 years that I have been covering politics, one constant was that people in both major parties had the same envious complaint about the other: We are too principled for our own good. The opposition is just better at being ruthless than we are.

What has changed in recent years is the end of equivalence. It is inconceivable to imagine any Democratic politician in modern times having such a grip on supporters that he or she would remain an unchallenged leader after losing an election or being under multiple simultaneous criminal investigations.

One answer is that Democrats perhaps shouldn’t be so hard on themselves, even if they lose congressional control.

But another answer is that 2022 is in fact a year of useful experiments for Democrats. For decades, progressives have argued that voters want a choice, not an echo — that drawing sharp stylistic lines and advocating an ambitious liberal agenda would motivate voters more effectively than play-it-safe centrism.

— OPINIONS —

The Republican double standard that’s endangering American democracy” via Frank Bruni of The New York Times — I appreciate little about Kari Lake, the Republican nominee for Governor in Arizona, but I do thank her for her candor. For her transparency. For laying out and laying bare the double standard that she and other Republican candidates and leaders embrace: “I’m going to win the election, and I will accept that result,” Lake said. I don’t know how you interpret that, but here’s my translation: The only outcome she will consider legitimate is her own victory. Anything else is a potential ground for a fresh round of rancor and a new cycle of conspiracy theories. She’s poised to pump more poison into the body politic. For too many other Republicans, there are just two possibilities: validation or victimization. There’s no such thing as losing fair and square.

Democrats don’t actually believe democracy is at stake in the Midterms” via Charles C.W. Cooke of National Review — The Democratic Party and its many acolytes in the press have at long last settled upon the proposition that if voters wish to preserve American democracy going forward, they must usher in a period of sustained one-party rule. Max Boot neatly summed up the ruse: November’s elections, Boot submitted in earnest, “are actually a referendum on whether you favor the continuation of democracy in America.” If you do, he concluded, you are obliged to deliver every office in the country to the party Boot happens to prefer. Anything else is undemocratic. They remember that Hillary Clinton, who lost fairly to Trump in 2016, has never accepted that loss: “He knows he’s an illegitimate president,” she said.

It’s still ‘the economy, stupid’! And that’s good news for DeSantis” via Stephen Nelly of the Tampa Bay Times — One could easily argue that both of Florida’s major candidates for Governor have been markedly less disciplined in their messaging compared to Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 campaign. Perhaps to energize their party bases ahead of the Midterm Elections, both sides have leaned into hot-button social issues and “personality politics.” But for most voters, those messages won’t move the needle. When asked whether their votes would be more heavily influenced by pocketbook or social values issues, an overwhelming majority chose the former. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of likely voters said that pocketbook issues were most important.

No, Biden’s immigration policies are not to blame for the fentanyl crisis” via David J. Bier and Jeffrey A. Singer of The Washington Post — Fentanyl, the synthetic opioid responsible for 88% of opioid overdose deaths in the U.S., is showing up in campaign ads across the country. The message is simple: Fentanyl would disappear if illegal immigration disappeared. This is wrong. Much of this narrative places blame on Biden’s immigration policies, which have supposedly caused fentanyl to “pour across our border.” But this misunderstands the obvious reality about the drug: Because it is so potent, a large supply can be easily concealed. That makes it easy to enter the country through legal border crossings. Fentanyl is entering the U.S. because consumers are willing to pay for illicit opioids. Policymakers must focus on helping people with addictions, not on banning immigration or throwing more taxpayer dollars at ineffective border measures.

Why DeSantis isn’t invited to Trump’s Florida rally: 5 theories” via Margaret Hartmann of New York Magazine — The Trump team has denied any intentional slight against DeSantis, yet it appears he still hasn’t been asked to join the Nov. 6 MAGA rally in Miami. So, what’s really going on here? I have some theories. DeSantis didn’t ask to come. DeSantis’s invitation got lost in the mail. Trump rallies have a strict “No DeSantises” rule. Trump is hoping that Tom Brady will drop by. Trump really hates DeSantis. The likeliest explanation for this rally debacle: Trump is pissed that DeSantis is threatening his big 2024 comeback, and he just wanted to show the Governor who’s boss.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— WEEKEND TV —

ABC Action News Full Circle with Paul LaGrone on Channel 10 WFTS: Florida Politics.com publisher Peter Schorsch, Tampa Bay Times political editor Emily Mahoney, and political analyst Dr. Susan MacManus.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A discussion of overdose prevention and the existing resources help cut down on the number of drug fatalities. Joining Walker are Sen. Jim Boyd; Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma; and Diane Ramseyer, executive director of Drug-Free Charlotte County.

Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete and Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Incumbent Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis will discuss his campaign for re-election; and a look at abolishing the Constitution Revision Commission via this year’s Amendment 2.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Steve Vancore hosts with guest Gary Fineout of POLITICO.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: At 1 p.m. Sunday — after Jaguars coverage; Clay County Commission candidates Leroy Edwards and Alexandra Compere.

— ALOE —

The Walt Disney World Railroad is on the move!” via Erica Resnick of Walt Disney World News — Disney has finally posted something regarding the Walt Disney World Railroad. We heard the train while strolling in the parks, and we’ve seen the track being laid out for its return. While we’ve seen all this progress, Disney hasn’t said much about the beloved railroad. Today, Disney Parks posted a video of the train testing at Magic Kingdom on Instagram.

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

Elon Musk says Twitter won’t be ‘free-for-all hellscape,’ addressing advertisers’ concerns” via Patience Haggin and Suzanne Vranica of The Wall Street Journal — Musk completed a takeover of Twitter. Madison Avenue isn’t sold on the deal. Advertisers are concerned about the billionaire’s plans to soften content moderation and what they say are potential conflicts of interest in auto advertising, given that he is chief executive of Tesla Inc., say people familiar with the situation. Musk said this Spring that as the owner of Twitter he would reinstate Trump’s account, which the platform suspended indefinitely after linking Trump’s comments to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Kanye West has no record company or publishing deal — how will he release music?” via Jem Aswad of Variety — Releasing music on West’s level requires major business partners — who will work with him? While the majors are likely out of the equation for the foreseeable future, it’s possible that he could strike a deal with a large indie. It is certainly possible to work within the label system on a per-release basis: Prince managed to avoid signing with a label for the last 20 years of his career — although he did not carry the baggage that West does. Publishing, however, is a more complex issue. Tracking down and collecting publishing royalties, which is known as administration, is a complex and laborious operation that requires extensive infrastructure; even a large publisher like Primary Wave Music outsources it to major companies like Universal and Warner.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today is Alia Faraj-Johnson, David Childs, Jim Daughton of Metz Husband Daughton, Jonathan Foerster, the legendary Bill Pfeiffer, and Tiffany Vause.

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


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