Good Tuesday morning.
Global public strategy firm Mercury is adding veteran public policy expert Kristin Crawford-Whitaker as a senior vice president in its Florida office. She brings nearly two decades of experience in government relations, public affairs, and advocacy at the state and federal levels.
Most recently, Crawford-Whitaker served as assistant vice chancellor of public policy and advocacy for Florida’s State University System. There, she served as the Board of Governor’s principal liaison with the legislative and executive branches, university leadership and critical figures throughout Florida.
In addition to Crawford-Whitaker, Mercury brought on Giovanna Salucci as a vice president in the firm’s Fort Lauderdale office. Salucci brings a decade’s worth of experience in branding and content, digital organizing, email fundraising and web development. She has led the web design and development for multiple brands, campaigns and organizations, raised millions of dollars for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot, managed SMS programs that reached millions of voters in Florida, and overseen branding and digital content for political campaigns and advocacy organizations.
Salucci also served as email director for Andrew Yang for President, digital director of For Our Future FL, Chief Technology Officer for a tech startup in the digital political space and has worked with down-ballot and statewide campaigns nationwide.
The next edition of INFLUENCE Magazine will be published around Memorial Day, focusing on the 2022 Election Cycle. (We’ve also begun to work on our biannual list of the INFLUENCE 100!)
The deadline to reserve space in this important edition is April 15. If you are interested in advertising, please email me at [email protected].
Save the date — The Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida holds its annual post-Session panel review featuring Matt Dixon of POLITICO and me, 11:30 a.m., Citrus Club, 255 S. Orange Ave., Suite 1800, Orlando. Advanced purchase of tickets is required. No on-the-day sales. Sales end April 18 at noon.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@SamStein: A shocking data point that explains much of (Joe) Biden’s political troubles. More people think jobs have been lost over the last year (37%) than those who think they’ve been gained (28%). Unemployment is at 3.6%.
—@ChristinaPushaw: Maybe if crops could identify as transgender, Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner would pay attention to her actual job.
—@VoteRandyFine: I can say I’m a porcupine, but that doesn’t make it so. It is time to dispense with this fantasy making women’s sports a joke and our schools into a cesspool. I’ve taken on Common Core, university corruption, and school board lawbreaking. And won every time. This is next.
—@PatrickSvitek: Here we go: In new email to supporters, @ rails against Disney over its opposition to the Florida law that critics called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. “I will make this law a top priority in the next Session,” Patrick says. #
—@SpencerRoachFL: CEO Bob Chapek needs to be removed. A man obsessed with sexualizing 4-year-olds should not run a company that built its brand on preserving the innocence & magic of childhood.
—@JoelMMathis: I’m astonished by how rapidly some segments of the right have gone all-in on slurring their opponents as potential child rapists.
—@JHWeissmann: I know it will be waved away as ancient history, but it is amazing to me that the party of Dennis Hastert and Mark Foley has settled on “grooming” as their new moral panic.
—@MelanieSGriffin: Awesome afternoon at @ attending the @ Annual Meeting. What a great group putting # on the map with this industry’s high-quality, handcrafted products. Looking forward to experiencing additional tastings soon.
—@JonMCostello: I think that in this day and age, we should all realize that the best “influencing” we can do is to our children, family and close friends. When we depart this world, those are the only people who will care. Social media influence is dopamine to the brain, but empty.
— DAYS UNTIL —
John Dingfelder to be replaced on Tampa City Council 一 2; MLB Opening Day — 3; ‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 14; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 18; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 24; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 25; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 25; federal student loan payments will resume — 27; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 32; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 37; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 52; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 53; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 59; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 64; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 96; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 108; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 127; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 138; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 151; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 185; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 203; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 203; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 222; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 225; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 230; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 230; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 232; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 257; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 321; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 337; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 354; 2023 Session Sine Die — 397; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 480; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 564; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 844.
“Ron DeSantis accuses Joe Biden of breaking oath over Title 42 immigration policy” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Biden announced his administration would end Title 42, which allows officials to expel migrants without granting them a hearing before an immigration judge. DeSantis has repeatedly criticized Biden’s border policies, and the Republican Governor took the opportunity to hammer the President on another immigration front.
“Joe Biden’s reckless border policies have allowed more than 2 million foreigners to enter our country illegally via the southern border,” DeSantis said. “Revoking Title 42 authority will supercharge the already skyrocketing flow of illegal aliens, increasing drug, human, and sex trafficking. Biden is failing miserably to faithfully execute the law and is violating his oath of office.”
DeSantis’ statement comes as Attorney General Ashley Moody announced that Florida is leading Alabama and Georgia in a separate complaint over the President’s border policies. In her complaint, Moody argues that the President fails to perform the duties required by Congress by continuing to operate under unlawful immigration enforcement priorities. “The Biden administration’s refusal to deport criminals here illegally after they complete their sentences makes us all less safe. Biden’s lax immigration policies are exacerbating the opioid crisis, facilitating human trafficking, and further jeopardizing overall public safety,” Moody said.
“‘Wrought with entitlement’: Florida Democrats struggle to win over Latinos” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO — Florida Democrats have long taken Latino voters for granted — a problem they’re finally trying to fix ahead of the 2022 midterms. Democrats say the steady erosion of support from a key constituency in the battleground state is helping rewire how they are planning to win back Latino voters, which in Florida includes a diverse mix of Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans, among others.
Happening today — U.S. Rep. Val Demings is scheduled to attend a meeting of the Duval County Democratic Black Caucus, 6 p.m. Info/registration here.
Charlie Crist posts $1M+ for March — Crist’s campaign is announcing a solid fundraising haul of over $1 million in March — the first Democratic gubernatorial candidate this cycle to break the million-dollar mark in a single month. The campaign is now touting $8.2 million total raised with over $5.3 million cash on hand. Crist now has over 130 endorsements from elected officials and community leaders, including former CFO and gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink and Jim Davis, former U.S. Representative and 2006 Democratic gubernatorial nominee. Crist’s team has also brought on Maurizio Passariello as Hispanic Media Director and Susan Windmiller as senior adviser for Women’s Outreach.
“Crist bashes DeSantis’ inaction on property insurance” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Crist castigated DeSantis for not pushing to fix Florida’s troubled property insurance market, which has seen steep rate hikes for most homeowners. “Prices are rising, and Floridians are hurting, but Gov. DeSantis is ignoring the problem — he’d rather focus on culture wars and his 2024 political ambitions,” Crist said. Five companies last year opted not to renew more than 120,000 policies, and another company, St. Johns Insurance Co., went insolvent. Although Slide Insurance Co. took on St. Johns’ policies, those moves put pressure on the rest of the market, which received large rate increases by state regulators, driven mostly by surges in roof claims and litigation costs.
Happening today — Sen. Annette Taddeo will speak at a Longboat Key Democratic Club meeting, 11:30 a.m., Sarasota Yacht Club, 1100 John Ringling Blvd., Sarasota.
“Chuck Nadd files for Agriculture Commissioner” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Nadd has jumped into the race for Agriculture Commissioner. After weeks of various statements to the media, he’s now filed with the Division of Elections for the job. Nadd faces Senate President Wilton Simpson and has criticized the lawmaker over issues from redistricting to supporting sugar farmers. While it has yet to materialize, rumors have swirled about whether DeSantis may prove supportive after a Legislative Session in which the Governor’s Office and the upper chamber were at odds over water management and reapportionment matters.
“Republican CD 7 candidate Rusty Roberts raises $173K in first 10 days” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Roberts has raised more than $173,000 in the 10 days since he filed to run for Florida’s 7th Congressional District in Central Florida, his campaign announced Monday. Roberts was the longtime Chief of Staff to the last Republican to represent the region, former Rep. John Mica, who served 24 years through early 2017. Roberts is one of 13 Republicans who have filed for the Aug. 23 Republican Primary Election for a shot to represent the district. The seat is opening because incumbent Rep. Stephanie Murphy has decided not to seek re-election this year.
“Anna Eskamani expands voter registration effort with new hires” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Rep. Eskamani is expanding her independent effort to register voters in advance of the 2022 elections, announcing the hiring of three more staff members for her People Power for Florida committee. Eskamani announced that the People Power for Florida committee had hired Allison Minnerly as a statewide organizing coordinator, plus Brevard County field organizers Betsy Bray and Lucy Casey. Minnerly, who has held positions with Demings’ U.S. Senate bid and in Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith’s office, assumes Sunny Toreihi’s former role. Toreihi moves to interim operations director until July 2022.
“Shane Abbott grows financial lead in HD 5 GOP Primary” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Abbott continues to outraise challengers in the GOP Primary race for the House District 5 seat, raking in more than $47,000 in March. A DeFuniak Springs pharmacy owner, Abbott is running to succeed term-limited GOP Rep. Brad Drake. He faces Jackson County Commissioner Clint Pate and Marianna Republican Vance Coley for the GOP nomination. “Our campaign is busier than ever with less than five months until Election Day,” Abbott in a statement celebrating the financial haul. Abbott has raised more than $380,000 through his campaign and political committee. He also enjoys endorsements by Drake and Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson.
“Chad Chronister backs Danny Alvarez for HD 69” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Hillsborough County Sheriff Chronister has announced his endorsement of Alvarez for state House District 69. Chronister is an influential figure in Tampa Bay politics as a 30-year veteran with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. He was appointed to the role in 2017 after the retirement of David Gee. Alvarez, a Tampa-based lawyer, launched his campaign in mid-February, running on conservative platforms “to build on our state’s record of results and defend the principles and values enshrined in our constitution.”
“Tom Valeo launches campaign to take HD 93, tackle ‘kitchen-table issues’” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — After six years as a staffer in the Legislature, Valeo is launching a bid to succeed his boss, outgoing Rep. Matt Willhite, in House District 93. Friday was Valeo’s last day as a legislative assistant, he told Florida Politics, and Monday marks the onset of his campaign. He’s planning to have a kickoff event later this month. The 28-year-old Wellington native’s campaign website says he will run a grassroots campaign “focused on organizing a coalition of people behind a platform that speaks to the kitchen-table issues of everyday people.” His campaign platform focuses on affordable housing, public education, and public safety, which he said are core tenets of living out the American dream.
Save the date:
“Fredd Atkins files for Sarasota County Commission seat” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Atkins has filed for a Sarasota County Commission contest. Two years after a controversial redistricting process drew him out of jurisdiction after he filed, Atkins said he’s ready to run again. And after the survival of single-member districts in a Special Election last month, he sees the right conditions to win. “I’ve been thinking about this all my adult life,” he said. “I’ve been working on single-member districts since I got into adulthood.” As a young man, Atkins worked with the NAACP, conducting intensive research at Sarasota City Hall to support a lawsuit that eventually led to single-member districts at the municipal level. He was selected as Sarasota’s first Black Mayor, a position he would hold multiple times over decades of service at City Hall.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“DeSantis staff delayed release of Matt Gaetz associate Halsey Beshears’ spending records” via Mike DeForest of Click Orlando — In a move criticized by advocates of Florida’s open government laws, DeSantis’ staff intervened in a public records request related to a former appointee who is reportedly connected to a federal sex trafficking investigation. The Governor’s secondary “review” of state spending records delayed the release of those documents for more than two months, records confirm. That delay may have violated Florida’s public records laws.
“Judges asked to install Senate-approved congressional map” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Federal judges asked to wade into Florida’s redistricting mess should adopt a new map already passed by the Republican-controlled Senate, a lawyer representing Common Cause and others suing the state said in court Monday. It was a significant request that added more drama to an ongoing power struggle over whether Florida would adopt a new map to bolster the Republican majority. The map that initially cleared the Senate had strong bipartisan support and would likely result in a 16-12 GOP majority. Florida picked up one congressional seat in 2022 due to population growth for a total of 28. Republicans currently hold a 16 to 11 advantage.
“Randy Fine wants to make treatments for transgender minors a felony” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — In the wake of fierce criticism of the so-called “don’t say gay” bill, GOP state Rep. Fine says he will sponsor a bill aimed at preventing parents and doctors from providing gender assignment treatment to transgender children. Fine said Monday that the legislation he plans to file next year would make providing drugs or surgery to a minor for gender assignment a felony child abuse crime punishable by prison and/or loss of a medical license. He said the bill would not affect “mental counseling” for minors. The American Medical Association has called gender assignment care, including puberty-blocking drugs and hormone treatments, “medically necessary.”
“Florida charter schools mostly exempt from 2022 education laws. Here’s why.” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis headed to a Pasco County charter school to forcefully defend HB 1557, a new law dealing with school gender lessons and health services critics are calling the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. He talked about the importance of protecting families from the overreach of schools that attempt to make decisions about children without parental input. “In Florida, we not only know that parents have a right to be involved, we insist that parents have a right to be involved,” the Governor said before signing the bill into law. But not all parents will see the impact equally.
“Making policy ‘champions’: Jeff Brandes looks at a post-Legislature legacy” via James Call of USA Today Network — Brandes may be term-limited out of the Legislature this year, but he still has unfinished business at the Capitol. In a recent virtual chat with Tallahassee’s Capital Young Republicans, Brandes said he intends to stay involved even after clearing out his Senate office. He said he’s forming a nonprofit to advocate for change and mentor the next generation of lawmakers to “champion” new policies in affordable housing, criminal justice reform, and property insurance. “Champions are not born. We’ve got to make them champions,” Brandes told the group. Brandes, who made millions in his family’s real estate business and is an Iraq War combat veteran, wants to develop and influence policy to influence government over the long run, what one politics expert calls “textbook politics 101.”
Congrats — “HD 36 candidate Rachel Plakon, Scott Plakon expecting baby girl” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Rachel Plakon and her husband, Rep. Scott Plakon, are expecting a baby girl this summer, they announced Monday. Rachel Plakon is running essentially to succeed Scott Plakon, who faces term limits. The districts have been redrawn and renumbered, with HD 36 now representing their area in Seminole County, instead of the House District 29 seat he holds now. “Scott and I are very happy to announce that we are expecting a baby girl! I’m more determined than ever to work hard to help keep Florida the best place to live, work … and raise a child,” she posted on Facebook Monday.
— STATEWIDE —
“Florida’s yo-yo’ing gas prices on the decline after double-digit increase last week” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida’s gasoline prices, although still above $4 a gallon, are on the decline following a month of rising costs and a 13-cent jump just in the last week. On Sunday, the average gas price was $4.17 a gallon, a drop of 7 cents in the previous five days. However, the latest decline is part of a long-term yo-yo effect that has caused motorists to change their driving habits. The average cost Monday is five cents higher than the week before, 55 cents more than last month, and $1.32 higher than last year. The previous month’s prices have dipped and climbed by double digits several times.
“NYC launches billboard campaign targeting Floridians irked by ‘Parental Rights in Education’ bill” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Residents in five of Florida’s biggest cities will soon see billboards urging them to move to the Big Apple. New York City rolled out a billboard campaign targeting people in the Sunshine State piqued by the recently passed Parental Rights in Education bill. The news release from the city describes the bill as “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, a phrase used by critics of the bill and adopted by much media in coverage. The ads will run from April 4 through May 29 in Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach. New York City anticipates 5 million digital impressions from the campaign. That legislation “bans instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade, a targeted attack on the LGBTQ+ population.”
“First look at questions asked in controversial Florida university viewpoint diversity survey” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — The University Intellectual Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity student survey mandated by the Republican-led Legislature during the 2021 Session was distributed to college students across the state Monday morning. The voluntary surveys, developed by the State University System and political researchers from Florida State University’s Institute of Politics, were finally sent to student emails after a judge cleared them Friday. There are 13 total questions on the student survey asking whether students feel their university or campus is a place where free political or belief expression can take place, and whether their professors create that environment and express their own political opinions.
“MAGA means big money for Christian Ziegler’s media business” via Chris Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Ziegler is a Sarasota County Commissioner, as well as vice-chair of the Florida Republican Party. These responsibilities alone make him a pretty busy guy. In addition, he runs a company called Microtargeted Media, which last summer received $317,298 from four Political Action Committees tied to Donald Trump. This raises a question: Are the best interests of Sarasota County being served by a Commissioner with strong outside political interests, such as making money off the nasty attempt to unseat Liz Cheney in Wyoming? Because that’s what Ziegler’s business does.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Barack Obama to return to White House to celebrate health care reform” via Mike Memoli of NBC News — Former President Obama will return to the White House on Tuesday for the first time since he left office to promote the Affordable Care Act in an event alongside Biden, a White House official said. The celebration of the 2010 health care overhaul will be their first joint appearance since they attended events commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks at Ground Zero in New York last fall, the official said. Vice President Kamala Harris will join them in delivering remarks about the expansion of health care benefits under the law, as well as Biden’s efforts to reduce health care costs further and expand access to care.
“Dems plot spring sprint for Party-line spending deal with Joe Manchin” via Burgess Everett of POLITICO — Senate Democrats are preparing to make one last push for a deal with Manchin on a huge party-line tax and spending bill. And they say they’ll do it differently this time. With their 50-member majority poised to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court by the end of the week, Democrats say they will quickly turn to trying to rebuild the bill once known as Build Back Better. But rather than a redux of the slow-motion collapse of that $1.7 trillion plan, they say they’ll swiftly meet Manchin where he is.
“With Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski’s pledged votes, Ketanji Brown Jackson has clear path to confirmation” via John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro of The Washington Post — The two Republicans announced their decisions moments after the Judiciary Committee voted to advance Jackson’s nomination to the full Senate. Jackson now has the support of at least three Republicans in the full Senate vote — Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said last week that she would vote to confirm her. The GOP opposition was underscored anew when all 11 Republicans on the Judiciary Committee voted against the nomination. That prompted Democrats to use an unusual procedure to force the nomination out of the deadlocked panel with a vote of the full Senate, which agreed to the move by a vote of 53 to 47.
“Billions, and more, for lawmakers’ projects in federal spending bill” via The Associated Press — The measure provided $5.1 billion for Democrats, $3.4 billion for Republicans and $600 million for projects sponsored by members of both parties, according to the Taxpayers group. Nearly all who requested projects got some. The AP’s figures include spending that the documents showed was also requested by Biden, which enhanced its chances. The entire $350 million Everglades restoration project, requested by Rep. Brian Mast, was sought by Biden, and at least $99 million that Shelby procured was also proposed by the President. The magnitude of this year’s projects was small compared with 2010, the last time Congress used earmarks.
“Marco Rubio thinks China is complicit in Russia’s war on Ukraine” via James Hohmann of The Washington Post — “Twenty-one years ago, China signed a ‘Treaty of Friendship’ with Russia,” Sen. Rubio wrote in an op-ed for The Post. “It might have started as a marriage of convenience, but that relationship has grown only stronger over time, through cooperation at the United Nations, energy deals and military exercises.”
“Rubio blasts Apple for eyeing ‘unacceptable’ Chinese chip supplier deal” via Nihal Krishan of the Washington Examiner — Sen. Rubio is calling out Apple for considering a purchase of phone memory chips from a Chinese state-owned supplier that he says would be disastrous for American tech leadership and national security. The Florida Republican warned Apple CEO Tim Cook in a letter Thursday against striking a deal with Chinese chip manufacturer Yangtze Memory, funded by the Chinese Communist Party and has extensive links to the Chinese military, the People’s Liberation Army. The company plays a crucial role in China’s broader national strategy of challenging American leadership in economic, military, and tech innovation.
“The Americans whom Rick Scott sees as ‘the enemy within’” via Steve Benen of MSNBC — Just a few days after unveiling his controversial policy blueprint, Sen. Scott appeared at the CPAC and reflected on the greatest threats to the United States. Ordinarily, Senators might point to an adversarial foreign government or terrorist networks, but the GOP Floridian pointed in a very different direction. “We survived the War of 1812, Civil War, World War I and World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War,” Scott told CPAC attendees. “Today, we face the greatest danger we have ever faced: The militant left-wing in our country has become the enemy within.” The Republican seemed to realize this was provocative but shrugged off potential criticisms. “You may think, ‘Well, Rick, that’s pretty dramatic. You call them the enemy within?’ Yes, I am,” Scott added.
“Vern Buchanan brings back Dave Karvelas as senior adviser” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A longtime Buchanan staffer is coming home to The Hill. Karvelas, who in January joined Ballard Partners, will return to Buchanan’s office as a senior adviser to the Congressman. “Vern called me back into action and when the coach calls, you slap on your gear and get back on the field,” he said. The move comes as Buchanan prepares to chair the powerful House Ways and Means Committee if Republicans retake the majority in the midterms. Regardless of the upcoming election result, Buchanan, a favorite for re-election, will enter the next Congress as a senior member of the most powerful panel in Congress. The senior adviser post is one Karvelas held before from January 2021 until he took on the role at Ballard. Before that, he served as Buchanan’s Chief of Staff from 2007 through the end of 2020.
“CDC, under fire for COVID-19 response, announces plans to revamp agency” via Lena H. Sun of The Washington Post — CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announced plans Monday to revamp the agency that has come under blistering criticism for its performance leading the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying, “it is time to step back and strategically position CDC to support the future of public health.” In an agencywide email sent shortly after 1 p.m. after the leadership team was briefed, Walensky said she has hired a senior federal health official outside of the Atlanta-based agency to conduct a one-month review to “kick off an evaluation of CDC’s structure, systems, and processes.” “Over the past year, I have heard from many of you that you would like to see CDC build on its rich history and modernize for the world around us,” Walensky wrote in the email. “
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Donald Trump endorses Sarah Palin for Alaska’s lone congressional seat” via Hannah Knowles of The Washington Post — Trump endorsed Palin for Alaska’s lone congressional seat, throwing his weight behind the ex-Governor who embraced Trump before he came to dominate the GOP. Palin announced Friday that she is running for the seat vacated by Rep. Don Young, who died last month after representing Alaska for nearly a half-century. Trump’s approval could boost the former Vice-Presidential candidate’s standing in a field of more than 50 candidates. “Sarah shocked many when she endorsed me very early in 2016, and we won big,” Trump said.
“GOP lawmakers embrace Trump agenda, with or without Trump” via Natalie Andrews and Eliza Collins of The Wall Street Journal — Republicans heading into the heart of the midterm primary season have disagreements over Trump’s future in the party. But they say they are largely united behind his populist domestic agenda in fighting to win back control of Congress. Interviews with about two dozen lawmakers at a recent House gathering in the Sunshine State and back in Washington show a party still grappling with how much wiggle room lawmakers have in their relationship with Trump and his politically polarizing persona. At the same time, most are embracing his record on such issues as immigration and energy policy, as they draw a contrast with Biden and his fellow Democrats, who control the House and Senate.
“How Trump allies are pushing to hand-count ballots around the U.S.” via Rosalind S. Helderman, Amy Gardner and Emma Brown of The Washington Post — Some of the key architects and amplifiers of the false claim that voting machines were rigged to steal the 2020 election from Trump traveled to the Nevada desert last month with a new pitch. Speaking at a Commissioners’ meeting in deeply conservative, primarily rural Nye County, they argued the county should ditch all its voting machines. Instead, they insisted the county should adopt an old-fashioned and largely obsolete method: tallying the results by hand. There has been increasing pressure on Republicans to endorse the idea, and several smaller towns and counties are now seriously considering it.
— LOCAL NOTES: N. FL —
“‘No end in sight’: Walton County spends over $2.3M in taxpayer dollars on customary use case” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News — More than $2.3 million in Walton County taxpayer dollars have been spent covering the cost of seeking a judicial declaration of customary use that would open 13.4 miles of privately held beach property to the public. However, that amount is somewhat deceiving in that it only includes funds committed by the county to fight for the declaration. The reality is that a thousand or so of the same taxpaying residents chipping into the county’s customary use effort are also paying lawyers to help defeat that very proposition, which they believe violates their private property rights as beach owners.
“TMH terminates employees who’ve not met vaccine mandate; HCA won’t say if 3% are still employed” via Christopher Cann of the Tallahassee Democrat — As a court-upheld vaccine mandate takes hold at local hospitals, some local health care workers are now looking for new jobs. According to a hospital spokesperson, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, which employs about 5,500 workers, has fired 10 employees for not meeting the requirement to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Feb. 26. Three percent of employees have not met the requirement or applied for a medical or religious exemption at HCA Florida Capital Hospital — which was previously Capital Regional Medical Center — said spokesperson Rachel Stiles.
“Nassau Board pursues land for new school, examines public records policy” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — A new Nassau County school slated to service rapidly expanding Nassauville developments may have a couple more acres of needed room if plans agreed to at the last county School Board meeting are held. “You know that we did a swap with the county on a piece of land next to Yulee High School, for a piece at the end of (Amelia) Concourse,” Superintendent Kathy Burns said. “So, we’ve been made aware of 2 acres that adjoin that piece of property at the end of the Concourse.” The Nassau County School District sent 8 acres to the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners to facilitate a roadway and received in return 12.24 acres that could become a new school site. “We know that with that 12 acres there, our design of our next school, wherever that school is, is going to have to be different,” Burns said.
“State School Board group may be poor fit for Nassau” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — The nearly $16,000 requested by the Florida School Boards Association (FSBA) from Nassau County’s School Board isn’t exactly in the mail. “As you saw on your agenda, we have received the invoice — it’s $15,996 for us to belong, for one year,” Chair Donna Martin said at the Board’s last meeting. “If you do a little history, as long as I have been on the Board, the Board’s decided $15,996 is better spent somewhere else. But it’s open for discussion.” Longtime Board member Gail Cook’s experience with the FSBA leads her to believe Nassau’s concerns won’t get heard or taken as seriously as those from places with more people.
— MORE LOCAL: C. FL —
“Election Day coming to 5 Polk County cities. Polls open at 7 a.m.” via Gary White of The Lakeland Ledger — The cities of Bartow, Davenport, Dundee, Haines City and Lake Wales will hold elections Tuesday. Dundee voters will consider five proposed amendments to the city charter. In Lake Wales, voters will choose a Mayor and a City Commissioner. Each of the other three cities has a single City Commission race on the ballot.
“Attorney says Orlando Gudes is waging ‘war with alternative facts’ in sexual harassment case” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — The attorney for the woman who accused Tampa City Council member Gudes of sexual harassment released a statement Monday accusing the Council member of waging “war with alternative facts” in his attempts to defend his actions. Gudes, the Council Chair, stepped down from that role Thursday with barely a month left in his term. He has, however, refused to resign from the Council despite last week’s release of an independent investigation that found 18 out of 19 sexual harassment claims against him by a former legislative aide were credible.
“Former Pasco child protection investigator arrested, accused of filing false reports” via Anastasia Dawson of the Tampa Bay Times — A former child protection investigator who resigned from the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office last year amid an investigation into her work was arrested Friday for knowingly falsifying two different reports while on the job, authorities said Monday. On Monday morning, at a news conference, Sheriff Chris Nocco announced that former employee Jennifer Lewis turned herself into the agency and now faces two felony charges of “falsifying, altering or destroying Florida Department of Children and Families records.” She was booked into county jail Friday but was released on a $5,000 bond two hours later.
“Tax-cut package puts Orlando in scoring position as World Cup site” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Lawmakers in the 2022 Legislative Session approved a $650 million tax-cut package that includes broad-based savings for most Floridians. One of the most significant portions of the package (HB 7071) is a $200 million gas tax cut, which will run throughout October and shave about a quarter off the price of a gallon of gas. The final bill also included sales tax holidays for back-to-school items, hurricane preparedness items, cultural event tickets and skilled worker tools. But the tax-cut package also includes savings that won’t be realized at the pump or cash register. One of the beneficiaries is Orlando, which hopes to be selected as a host site for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
“Mangrove clearing, runoff at Siesta Isles near Fort Myers Beach raises alarm” via Amy Bennett Williams of the Fort Myers News-Press — Residents fear new work on Siesta Isles will endanger their homes as it uproots resident wildlife, along with the sheltering fringe of coastal forest that neighbor Monica Lynn calls “a very special place.” In progress for more than half a century, work is ramping up again, to the dismay of nearby residents. In 2002, the 136-acre parcel’s zoning changed from agricultural to residential and allowed 47 homes and 30 boat slips. That was later scaled back to 28 units after neighbors banded together to convince state and federal agencies to reduce the project’s scope. This time, though, they didn’t hear about the work until it was underway, sometimes in the dark.
— MORE LOCAL: S. FL —
“60-unit building in North Miami Beach ordered evacuated, ‘structurally unsound’” via Aaron Liebowitz and Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — The city of North Miami Beach ordered residents of a five-story, 60-unit apartment building to evacuate Monday after receiving an engineer’s report that said it was “structurally unsound.” The report dated April 1 said elevation points taken that morning at 3800 Northeast 168th Street by a general contractor had found that “the deflection in the slabs is exceeding” guidelines by the American Concrete Institute. The engineer, Brownie P. Taurinski, wrote that the building “must be evacuated immediately.” City Manager Arthur “Duke” Sorey said he had just learned of the report Monday morning. He said city officials received the engineer’s report in an email after working hours on Friday and didn’t see it over the weekend.
“Day One of Nikolas Cruz case underlines why finding a willing jury will take time” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Jury selection began Monday in the Cruz death-penalty trial, and many in the first group of potential jurors told the judge that serving at least four months would strain their livelihoods. One man, a self-employed business coach, said he’d have to shut down his entire business. Another man told the judge he toils at two jobs, with FedEx and as a chef at night, just to pay his mortgage. The fear of missing wages and tips was a familiar one. And Monday morning foreshadowed what figures to be a long slog in selecting a jury for Cruz.
—”Jury will be allowed to tour site of Parkland mass shooting, judge rules” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel
“Palm Beach County schools remove books on transgender kids for review in light of ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law” via Sonja Isger of The Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County principals are removing from classroom and library shelves two children’s books featuring pint-size transgender narrators who describe their different-ness and discuss navigating confusions over things such as names, pronouns and bathroom choices. The removal of Call Me Max and I Am Jazz comes days after DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education bill, known by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Mike Burke ordered the state-approved books be pulled from circulation in a note to principals Thursday, saying they must be reviewed in light of parameters set by the law, which goes into effect in July.
“Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor Heather Moraitis calling it quits two years early” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Vice Mayor Moraitis says she plans to step down from her Commission seat in November, two years before her term ends. Her early exit now has some considering a run for office, including John Herbst, the longtime city auditor fired in February. Moraitis’ sudden announcement, delivered to City Hall via email Friday, left some stunned. “I was a little surprised, quite frankly,” said Chris Williams, president of the Coral Ridge Homeowners Association. “I had no inkling she’d do that, especially since she was talking about running for Mayor if Dean [Trantalis] ran for Congress. That kind of threw me off.”
“Miami’s top official on climate change is resigning. She was the third in three years.” via Joey Flechas and Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — The top official in the city of Miami responsible for preparations for climate change is stepping down, leaving the job empty for the third time in three years. Multiple City Hall sources confirmed to the Miami Herald that Chief Resilience Officer Shelby Busó, who was hired in January, has resigned her position with the city of Miami, citing family issues. She previously served as the chief sustainability officer with the city of Atlanta. Busó’s departure comes less than a year after former CRO Alan Dodd resigned. He is now director of public works for the city of Fort Lauderdale.
—TOP OPINION —
“Biden told the truth: Vladimir Putin has to go” via Garry Kasparov of The Wall Street Journal — Russia’s all-out war on Ukraine is entering its sixth week, and the past few days have seen a rhetorical shift in Putin’s goals. Since the Kremlin lies about everything, real evidence of a Russian retreat or any change in posture is always necessary. Whether it’s feint or fiction, the pressure by Ukraine and its allies on Russia must only increase. No free-world leader should hesitate to state plainly that the world would be a far better place if Putin were no longer in charge in Russia, and one way to help make that come about is to say it. Making it clear that Russia will be a pariah until Putin is gone is the best way to shake his support among elites, military commanders, and ordinary Russians.
“DeSantis’ 4H agenda: hateful, harmful, hurtful and homophobic” via Gary Farmer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Over the course of the 663-day Legislative Session, DeSantis and his acolytes in the Florida Legislature carried out with brutal efficiency a 4H agenda. Of course, I am not referring to an effort to get children involved in agriculture, but rather a set of policies that are hateful, harmful, hurtful and homophobic. In six years of serving the people of South Florida in the state Senate, I can say with absolute certainty that this past Legislative Session was by far the most ruthless that I have ever seen. While DeSantis referred to his 4H agenda as a prescription for a “Free Florida,” I and many others would argue that this description could not be farther from the truth.
“DeSantis’ repulsive war on Disney will soon face a reckoning” via Greg Sargent of The Washington Post — The stench of presidential ambition around DeSantis has grown so thick that it resembles Charlie Brown pal Pigpen’s visible cloud of filth, and key to the Florida Governor’s hopes is finding a way to capture the political energies unleashed by Trump. DeSantis must accomplish this while carving out a distinct path from that of the former President, who might run again himself. DeSantis’s new war with Disney appears to fit the bill perfectly. DeSantis’s fellow Republicans see this battle as key to burnishing his national anti-“woke” brand.
“Don’t cut nursing care in Florida’s nursing homes” via Nancy LeaMond for Florida Politics — The eyes of American families across the country are on Florida right now. Nursing staffing standards protect vulnerable seniors in nursing homes who count on and deserve high-quality care. But that will all change if DeSantis does not veto HB 1239. It’s no secret that there is a direct correlation between the quality of resident care and nursing staff levels in nursing homes. However, right now, legislation is on its way to DeSantis that will lower Florida’s nursing staff standards, taking nursing care out of nursing homes and putting our loved ones in harm’s way. HB 1239 will cut nursing care by 20%, from 2.5 hours daily of Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) care per resident to just 2.0 hours.
“Humane contraception program merits Governor’s support” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Florida’s Catholic bishops again are urging DeSantis to veto something reasonable and humane that the Legislature has done to minimize abortions. DeSantis vetoed this program last year, which was a mistake. He should approve it this time. Despite the harsh 15-week ban the Republican leadership passed this spring that the Governor signed into law, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops wants church doctrine to also control how Florida women prevent unwanted pregnancies. That’s far beyond the proper separation of church and state, and it elevates doctrine over common sense.
“DeSantis must strike out wasteful spending on new Rays training facility” via Skylar Zander for Florida Politics — Although the Florida Legislature passed the state budget and brought this year’s session to a close, it is not too late to call for an ejection regarding a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars. Lawmakers approved $35 million for a brand-new baseball training facility for the Tampa Bay Rays in Pasco County. Using Floridians’ hard-earned dollars for something that only benefits some is a complete disservice to them. By wisely using his line-item veto power, DeSantis can stop Rays owners from stealing a base (and much more) from Florida residents. The effort to siphon public dollars into construction projects for the Rays has been clear corporate welfare from the start, and it’s time that state leadership declares “game over.”
“Legislators broke their promise of Surfside condo reforms. Tackle it in the Special Session” via the Miami Herald editorial board — It’s been three weeks since the Florida Legislature ended its 2022 regular session. And we are still trying to wrap our minds around the idea that lawmakers didn’t pass anything designed to address the problems revealed by the horrific collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside. It’s breathtaking the idea that 98 people can die in this horrible way and the state Legislature fails to pass any reforms. It’s a tragedy on top of a tragedy. It’s a dereliction of duty. Lawmakers need to take up condo reforms in the special session later this month. They owe it to all of us.
“Protecting the Florida Wildlife Corridor” via Jennifer Reed of GulfShore Life — The photo Carlton Ward Jr. worked for nearly two years to capture happened in the backcountry of Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Across from us is a private ranch, as tranquil as the sanctuary. If not for the human-made boundary, the forested landscapes would blend as one. That’s the point, he explains. Ward, a conservation photographer, National Geographic Explorer and founder of the Florida Wildlife Corridor, wanted to document a Florida panther crossing between the ranch and Audubon’s land to deliver this message: We need undeveloped land, millions more acres of it, public and private alike, to ensure wildlife, like the Florida panther, survives.
“What do you do if you are ranked #1? If you are Seminole County Public Schools, you work harder.” via Paul Cottle of Bridge to Tomorrow — What do you do when you are the top-ranked school district in the state in preparing students for college STEM majors? Apparently, the answer is that you work harder at it. The Seminole County school district has been ranked #1 in Florida on Bridge to Tomorrow’s STEM Career Prep Index every school year since the first ranking was posted. But that pride hasn’t led to complacency. In fact, the district has been doubling down on efforts to maintain the district’s standing as the best in Florida.
— ALOE —
“Disney: Guardians of Galaxy ride opens at Epcot in May” via DeWayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, an indoor roller coaster, will make its debut at Epcot on May 27, Walt Disney World announced Monday. The resort also released a 30-second commercial spot for the new attraction that features characters from the “Guardians” movie series in an Epcot setting. The footage includes a glimpse of Spaceship Earth, the Cosmic Rewind ride vehicles and scenes of something gone horribly wrong: Things disappearing. Cosmic Rewind will be the third coaster to open in metro Orlando in the past year, following Jurassic World VelociCoaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure last summer and Ice Breaker at SeaWorld Orlando last month.
“In on the joke: Orlando’s search for perfect April Fool prank leads to MCO” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and his team were brainstorming how to top their April Fools’ Day prank from 2021. That year, on social media, the city announced a new underwater restaurant was opening in Lake Eola. The joke was a hit and even won his team an award for best humor. How could the airport fit into the perfect joke? To work, a good April Fools’ Day gag had to be fun and engaging but also couldn’t be offensive or make someone upset. Then they had it: The winner. Dyer could perform his speech live on a tram in front of real passengers.
If you see him at the airport today tag us! pic.twitter.com/EZpKW2ej30
— City of Orlando Gets Vaccinated 💉 #IGotMyShot (@citybeautiful) April 1, 2022
“Medicare enrollees to get free COVID-19 tests at drug stores” via Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of The Associated Press — Amid worries that the latest coronavirus variant could spark another rise in cases, Medicare announced Monday that millions of enrollees will finally have access to free over-the-counter COVID-19 tests at drug stores. More than 59 million people with Medicare’s “Part B” outpatient coverage will get up to eight free at-home tests per month, or enough for an individual to test twice a week, as some doctors have recommended. This is the first time the health insurance program for older people and those with disabilities has covered an over-the-counter test at no cost to recipients.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to three solid Tampa Bay politicos, County Commissioner Harry Cohen, Largo Commissioner Michael Smith, and Pinellas Property Appraiser Mike Twitty. It’s also former Secretary of State Katherine Harris’ birthday. Belated best wishes to Victoria Price and Dave Vasquez.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.