Javier Manjarres posts bail, returns to blogging

Conservative blogger Javier Manjarres has evidently returned from a stint in jail and returned to blogging about Florida politics on his site, the The Shark Tank.

The blog was on hiatus over the weekend, with no posts published between Friday and Monday. Manjarres was processed and released from the Palm Beach County jail after his arrest Saturday on attempted murder charges.


Presidential primary lifts Republican voter registration as Democrats sag

The Donald TrumpMarco RubioTed CruzJohn Kasich show that came to Florida this winter provided a boost of more than 100,000 registered voters for the Republican Party of Florida while the Hillary ClintonBernie Sanders affair gave no such bounce for the Florida Democratic Party.

Florida’s final voter registration counts going into the state’s March 15 presidential primary showed  an increase of 103,872 registered Republicans since the 2014 general election. At the same time, the number of Democrats register to vote in Florida declined by 58,390.

Along the way, the GOP flipped four counties from having more Democrats to having more Republicans: Bradford, Columbia, Baker and Washington. Since then, monitoring daily voter registration counts, Republican officials say they have taken two more counties, including one of the state’s most populated, Pinellas.

Democrats still hold significant voter registration advantages statewide and in all other urban counties though. And presidential general elections such as the one this November have historically led to robust summer voter registration efforts for Democrats.

A FloridaPolitics.com analysis of voter registration figures from the book closing for Florida’s presidential primary found that 37.8 percent of the state’s voters were registered as Democrats, and 35.5 percent as Republicans. The remaining 26.7 percent were registered either as independents or with minor political parties.

But for now, Democrats are losing ground. Democrats held a 3.8 percent advantage over Republicans in 2014, and that slipped to just under 2.4 percent last week.

Statewide, 4,569,788 Democrats were registered to vote in the presidential primary, a reduction of about 1.3 percent since the 2014 general election.

There were 4,276,104 registered Republicans registered for last week’s primary, a 2.5 percent increase from 2014.

Florida also had 3,214,856 voters who registered either as unaffiliated or with minor political parties. That was 83,733 more than in the 2014 general election, a 2.7 percent increase.

Democrats biggest advantages continue to be in the predominantly African-American and low-population counties of the central Panhandle, such as Gadsden, Liberty and Madison, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2 to 1. Democrats also still hold double-digit percentage leads over Republicans in several large counties – Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Orange – though Republicans made gains in each of those since 2014.

Republicans’ stronghold remains the western Panhandle counties of Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton, as well as the north Florida counties of Clay, Nassau and St. Johns, where they enjoy 2 to 1 (and growing, in the latest counts) advantages.

By flipping Pinellas the GOP would get its first red county with at least a half-million voters. Democrats still control the other six, including their single-digit percentage leads in Hillsborough and Duval.

Democrats made gains versus Republicans in only two counties: Seminole and Alachua. In Seminole, the Democrats signed up 2,836 more voters, while Republicans signed up 2,047 more. That sliced the GOP’s lead in voter registration there to 6 percent more than Democrats, down from 6.4 percent in the last election. In Alachua a very slightly better performance by Democrats in registering voters only padded that party’s already big lead in voter registration, now 18.7 percent.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — March 24

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray, and Jim Rosica.

STAT OF THE DAY — There are now more registered Republicans (225,976) in bellwether Pinellas County than there are registered Democrats (225,957). Of course, NPA (178,687) is the fastest-growing cohort, but the fact that progressive, environmentally-conscious Pinellas is now a red county is emblematic of much of what is wrong with the Florida Democratic Party.

The last Democratic Speaker of the Florida Hosue, Peter Rudy Wallace, was from St. Petersburg. The liberal Tampa Bay Times is headquartered in downtown St. Pete. Pinellas County has a Democratic majority on its County Commission. Tampa Bay is the home of Bob Buckhorn, Rick Kriseman, Charlie Crist, and Alex Sink. Were the Florida Dems ever to mount a real comeback in the Florida Legislature, it would have to include winning battleground seats in Pinellas and Hillsborough County. Yet it will be lucky if it fields even nominal opposition in two key state Senate races (versus Jeff Brandes and Dana Young).

Registration numbers only say so much, but this is a huge moral victory at the grassroots level for the Florida GOP.

As goes Florida, so goes the presidency. As goes the I-4 corridor, so goes Florida. As goes Pinellas, so goes the I-4 corridor. That’s why this number is so important.

SPEAKING OF (AND FOR PINELLAS) — FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE DAY via Jack Latvala — “I think its time for Republican leaders to start acknowledging the valid issues driving Donald Trump’s supporters. The simple fact is that many Republican voters are worse off now than they were a decade ago and the ones who are better off don’t see the same opportunities available for their children or grandchildren. Donald Trump’s message has won the day and his nomination appears inevitable.

There is, however, another truth about Americans. We don’t like winners who pile on and taunt. Almost every professional sports league in America has rules against excessive celebrations because we respect people who win with dignity. As the presumptive winner of the GOP primary contest, I sincerely hope Donald Trump starts acting like the type of winner Americans need and respect. Otherwise, we will face a very difficult election in the fall.”

WHY JEB BUSH’S ENDORSEMENT IS A GAME CHANGER FOR TED CRUZ via Jeremy Carl of the National Review – The endorsement … had a surprisingly enthusiastic tone, with Bush calling Cruz “a consistent, principled, conservative who has shown he can unite the party.” But beyond the positive language, the Bush endorsement is Cruz’s most significant to date for many reasons. This may seem a somewhat strange claim, given that Bush campaign was never able to attract many votes despite beginning the cycle as the presumed front-runner. But Bush’s endorsement … serves as a tremendous validation for Cruz that he is, at long last, beginning to unite the various strands of the mainstream GOP, both conservative and establishment, around him in opposition to Trump. Even more important, Bush’s unqualified endorsement is an unofficial blessing by Bushworld for GOP financiers that they can and should feel free to raise money for Cruz without apology and without any fear of “mainstream” backlash. To do otherwise, given Bush’s statements, would be to be “more royalist than the king.”

CHART OF THE DAY: HOW FAR JEB BUSH IS GOING TO STOP DONALD TRUMP via Ritchie King of FiveThirtyEight.com – It’s an anti-Trump, clothespin endorsement: Bush appealed to Republicans to “overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena.” And although Bush praised Cruz as a “consistent, principled conservative,” the two men come from completely different camps of the Republican Party … our graphical conception of the Republican field — what we call the GOP’s “five-ring circus” — and how far across that field former presidential candidates have gone when choosing who to endorse. Both Bush and Lindsey Graham traveled a ways along the circus floor — across the entire “establishment” ring and beyond — to arrive at their Cruz endorsements. Only Chris Christie’s endorsement of Trump, the GOP front-runner, looks like a bigger stretch, though admittedly, Trump’s placement is extremely tenuous. Still, Cruz has been mostly despised by Republican apparatchiks, and the chart should give you a sense of the lengths some Republican Party “elites” are willing to go to stop Trump.

TWEET, TWEET: @realDonaldTrump: Low energy Jeb Bush just endorsed a man he truly hates, Lyin’ Ted Cruz. Honestly, I can’t blame Jeb in that I drove him into oblivion!

GOP ELITES LINE UP BEHIND TED CRUZ via Eli Stokols of POLITICO – Republican elders, desperate to stop Trump, are increasingly convinced they would rather forfeit the White House than hand their party to the divisive Manhattan billionaire. That’s why the party’s establishment is suddenly rallying behind Cruz, a man they’ve long despised and who has little chance, in the view of many GOP veterans, of defeating Hillary Clinton on Election Day. “People think we’re not going to win in November anymore. All the candidates that had a shot at winning don’t appear to have a shot at winning the nomination. Everyone is resigned to that,” said a high-ranking GOP operative about the thinking among Bush and Rubio alumni, as well as Republican party officials and big-money donors. “People think we lose with Cruz, but we don’t lose everything,” said the operative … “He’s still a real Republican. We don’t lose the House and Senate with Cruz. We don’t lose our soul as a party, and we can recover in four years and I’m not sure people think we can recover from Donald Trump.” Said one high-level operative inside the Koch network: “He’s the devil you know.” Indeed, they’d rather lose with Cruz and play a longer game with eyes on 2020 than see their party and conservative principles hijacked by Trump – a candidate they do not trust even as they recognize his political dexterity and the possibility that he could be just cagey enough to win in the fall.

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WITH DONALD TRUMP LEADING, NEARLY ALL SENATE CANDIDATES SEEK ‘OUTSIDER’ LABEL via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Call it the Trump effect or the Bernie Sanderseffect: Nearly all of the seven candidates for Florida’s open U.S. Senate seat — even some sitting congressmen — are angling to be seen as “the outsider.” But some experts say that strategy may not be the boon candidates hope for, even in an election cycle that’s so anti-Washington. “There’s something that is so unique to Trump that I’m not sure it’s easily translated to another race,” said Nathan Gonzales, editor of the Rothenberg and Gonzales political report. “In terms of the effect of Trump down-ballot, nobody knows,” said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the Cook political report. “Everybody is in pretty uncharted water.” For the last month, Republicans in particular have hurled criticisms at one another, trying to make their opponents out to be part of the political elite. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantiscalled Bradenton homebuilder Carlos Beruff a “Charlie Crist Republican” and accused him of “crony capitalism.” For his part, Beruff has gone after Carlos Lopez-Cantera and David Jolly as “professional politicians.”

MY TAKE: SELF-PROCLAIMED ‘TAXPAYER HERO’ RON DESANTIS CARRIES MOST DEBT IN FLORIDA’S U.S. SENATE RACE via Florida Politics – Boasting a reputation as a “leading fiscal conservative in the House,” DeSantis doesn’t quite walk the same walk in his own campaign. As he frequently rails against the national debt, comparing a recent budget deal to “giving a shopaholic an unlimited credit card,” the congressman seems perfectly fine carrying a boatload of debt on his own. POLITICO Florida reports that nearly $100,000 is owed to direct mail vendors; $86,039 of it to Virginia-based Targeted Victory Funding, which provides website development and online marketing. As of the last reporting period, DeSantis added another $29,470. Calling yourself a “taxpayer hero” by decrying massive debt is apparently much easier said than done, especially when vendors’ money is already in your pocket. Financial solvency is a simple equation — pay your debts with the money you have.

PATRICK MURPHY STAFFER ASKS TRACKER IF HE’S “DOIN’ GOOD?” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Video trackers have become a regular way of life on the campaign trail … No doubt Jupiter Democratic Representative Patrick Murphy gets his fair share … The other night, Murphy and one of his staffers were en route to a meeting when a tracker caught up with them. In a video, courtesy of the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aimed at keeping the Senate in GOP hands, the Murphy staffer tries to obstruct the tracker from asking a question, and comes out looking a bit foolish in doing so. Congressman Murphy seems to be enjoying the exchange, nevertheless.

U.S. SENATE TRACKER: Carlos Beruff will attend the Sarasota Republican Club dinner meeting at 6 p.m. at Marina Jack Restaurant in Sarasota. Carlos Lopez-Cantera will attend the Republican Club of Okaloosa County meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the American Legion in Fort Walton Beach.

CORRINE BROWN FACING HOUSE ETHICS INVESTIGATION via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The House Committee on Ethics has established an investigative subcommittee to look at whether Brown violated any laws or committed “fraudulent activity.” A release from the committee does not list specific allegations, but the head of a charity linked to Brown pleaded guilty earlier this month to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Brown was served with a federal subpoena in January. Carla Wiley, president of the Virginia-based nonprofit One Door for Education, pleaded guilty to using the influence of a public official to solicit contributions to her organization. She has agreed to cooperate with federal officials. Court documents in that case do not name the public official but simply refer to them as “Person A.” It outlines $150,000 in disbursements made from the nonprofit to “cover costs associated with social or political events hosted by Person A or held in Person A’s honor.” Brown’s office said she has “no comment” on the ethics probe.

JEFF MILLER BACKS NEAL DUNN TO TAKE ON GWEN GRAHAM via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – “North Florida needs a conservative who is committed to serving our veterans, shrinking the size and scope of the federal government and safeguarding our Second Amendment rights,” Miller said. “Neal Dunn shares the same conservative values as many of us in our community, and he has demonstrated a commitment to the ideals and principles of the Founding Fathers. I believe his background as a veteran and surgeon makes him uniquely qualified to represent the 2nd District of Florida in Congress.”

REBECCA NEGRON MAKES THE BALLOT IN CD 18 BY PETITION via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – “I am encouraged and honored that I am now qualified to appear on the ballot to represent Congressional District 18 for the upcoming Republican primary on Aug. 30,” Negron said. “Reaching this milestone by petition is further proof that Congressional District 18 voters are not only hearing our conservative message, but hearing a message they embrace for the future of their community and nation … My team and I have enjoyed meeting and speaking with the people of this community.”

CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS CAN HELP OR HINDER CANDIDATES SWITCHING RACES via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Because of differences between federal and state campaign finance laws, Mike Haridopolos can use money left over from his failed U.S. Senate bid to run for state Senate, but Matt Gaetz, who switched from a state Senate seat to a congressional effort, is out of luck. According to Federal Election Commission records, [Haridopolos] still has $944,745 in his campaign committee, “Friends of Mike H” … Gaetz can’t just move his money to a congressional campaign because Florida law says he has to “dispose” of those funds after withdrawing from the race. He has 90 days to so do once he officially takes his name out of contention … Gaetz will have to “return pro rata to each contributor (any) funds that have not been spent or obligated.” On the other hand, should Haridopolos jump into the state Senate race, he can — generally speaking — apply his federal campaign dollars toward that bid, according to Paul S. Ryan, deputy executive director of the Campaign Legal Center … “In this instance, the only restriction on a federal candidate’s use of campaign funds is that the candidate cannot convert the funds to personal use … In order for a federal candidate to use their campaign funds to support a state office campaign, state campaign finance law would require the funds to be contributed to, and then spent out of, the candidate’s state campaign committee … So, in the eyes of federal law, this is deemed a contribution from a federal committee to a state committee.”

NATIONAL LIBERAL GROUP TARGETS ANITERE FLORES AS ‘QUEEN OF CORRUPTION’ IN FLORIDA via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – … because of her past work with the unaccredited Doral College in Miami-Dade County. In an online video — that declares her “Florida’s most corrupt politician” — Occupy Democrats takes Flores to task for her former job as president of the college and for supporting legislation that benefited Florida’s charter school industry. The group alleges she “takes tax dollars meant for education and pockets them” for her own enrichment and those of her “friends.” Doral College is run by Academica, a for-profit company that’s believed to be Florida’s largest charter school operator and that a few Miami-Dade Republican lawmakers have connections to. Flores worked as president of Doral College from its inception in 2011 until July 2015. Occupy Democrats — which bills itself as a “counterbalance” to the conservative tea party movement — posted its video on Facebook, sharing it with nearly 2.6 million fans on the site.

NORA PATTERSON RAMPS UP ENDORSEMENT WAR IN STATE SENATE RACE via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Patterson took the endorsement chase to a whole new level when the former Sarasota County commissioner put out a list of 150 people supporting her state Senate bid. The list Patterson sent out Wednesday covers two full pages. What’s unusual is that many of the names aren’t those of elected officials. Instead, they’re prominent business leaders and community activists. They include doctors, attorneys, realtors, a veterinarian, a library manager, the former head of Sarasota Memorial Hospital, the former head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and plenty of people who are just listed as “Sarasota resident” or “Venice resident” or “Longboat Key resident” … “These leaders are all well-known and respected in their communities and will be part of an unprecedented local grassroots effort to elect Nora Patterson to the Florida Senate,” Patterson said in the release. The list further showcased the deep connections Patterson has in Sarasota County after nearly a quarter century in local government.

HD 25 HOPEFUL TOM LEEK NETS ENDORSEMENTS FROM FORMER RIVALS via Florida Politics – The endorsements came from Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys and Becky Reichenberg, a former legislative aide for current Republican Rep. Fred Costello, who is running for Congress. “Tom Leek is someone we can count on to be a conservative leader in Tallahassee,” Denys said. “Tom is someone who understands our needs, from better cooperation between the state and local governments to better-paying jobs and a technology-driven future for our economy.” Reichenberg said that after meeting Leek, she was confident that “he’s a true conservative with the right experience and the right mindset for the job.” Leek said he was “beyond grateful” for the former candidates’ support and that he looked “forward to working closely with both Deb and Becky for many years to come.”

RENE PLASENCIA USES POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE MONEY TO BUY SCHOOL BUS via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Plasencia’s Commitment to Opportunity, Action and Community Health PC (COACH PC) spent $6,735 on Feb. 18 to purchase, at the Campus Auto Retail Service in Deland, what the PAC’s website called “capital.” Once the purchase was noticed on the PAC’s website, it had political activists and observers in Central Florida raising eyebrows and gossiping about whether “Coach P” Plasencia, an Orlando Republican, used PAC campaign money to buy a used car. “It’s a school bus,” Plasencia said …  A full-size school bus. Plasencia, a high school teacher and track coach before he was elected, said he intends to put an advertising wrap on it declaring “Coach P.” Then he intends to use it as a mobile campaign office, a mobile constituency outreach and services office, and to help out at social services and community events that might need a mobile office. Or a bus. “The lawyers said the only way we could do it is to purchase it through the PC,” Plasencia said. Coach P’s Magic Bus won’t be ready for its debut for a few weeks. Plasencia said he imagines the purchase should be fine with those who had donated to the PAC. After all, he said, PAC money can be spent on virtually anything.

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DANE EAGLE TALKS GUN LEGISLATION DURING AT SWFL TIGER BAY CLUB via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Eagle said a bill to allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry their guns on college and university campuses will be proposed again in the next Legislative Session. However, he seemed less sure about the future of a second gun bill (HB 163) that would have allowed concealed permit holders to openly carry their weapon. “Guns are a very sensitive topic for many,” he said. “When some people see (an image of a gun) they automatically see violence. Others see pride, patriotism and self-defense. It’s understandable why there is so much controversy, those believes are strong and people have differing opinions.” Eagle co-sponsored the campus carry bill (HB 4001) during the 2016 Legislative Session. The proposal cleared the Florida House on an 80-37 vote, but died in the Florida Senate.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: State Rep. Ed Narain will mark the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act by highlighting the success story of Ken Conklin, who discovered a life threatening illness after enrolling in a private health insurance plan offered by the ACA. News conference begins 10 a.m. at Narain’s District Office, 2109 East Palm Ave., Suite 201 in Tampa.

JET FUEL TAX CHANGES SET TO BECOME LAW JULY 1, BARRING UNLIKELY VETO via Florida Politics – The bill removes exemptions to the state’s jet fuel tax, which currently apply to once-upstart carriers like Southwest Airlines and JetBlue beginning in 2018. It would also lower the overall rate for all carriers from 6.9 percent to 4.7 percent, in order to keep the change “revenue neutral,” or avoid becoming a de facto tax increase. The move undoes a legislative change made in 1996 designed to help lure (now-defunct) Pan Am II to Florida by giving smaller fledging carriers who employ 250 or more workers what now amounts to a 10-figure tax break annually. The exemption briefly expired in 2001, but lawmakers reinstated it in 2002 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks shook officials’ confidence in the strength of Florida’s aviation industry. The bill is considered a major win for larger air lines like Delta, American and United, who say the “small” carriers like Southwest have now grown their market-shares enough to compete without tax incentives. It’s essentially a twofer for the big firms: they will pay less in jet fuel taxes, while their competitors will go from paying 0 to 4.7 percent per gallon.

LEGISLATURE EASES TRANSFER RULES FOR HIGH-SCHOOL ATHLETES via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – That bill (HB 7029), passed by lawmakers but not yet delivered to Scott, contains a section for school districts to amend their eligibility requirements for high school athletes. The provision is substantially the same as legislation pushed in the House and Senate that gave student athletes more freedom to transfer schools without incurring penalties. Among other things, the provision allows student-athletes to be immediately eligible when they enroll in or transfer to a school and requires a local board to establish eligibility criteria. The bill also lays out penalties for school employees who are found guilty of recruiting, requires teams to forfeit wins using recruited students and changes the threshold of proving eligibility to a “preponderance of evidence,” instead of by “clear and convincing evidence,” a tougher legal standard.

GOV. SCOTT SIGNS NEEDLE EXCHANGE, RAPE KIT BILLS via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The new rape kit law is intended to prevent future backlogs in the wake of Florida Department of Law Enforcement reports that 13,000 kits lie untested in the state. It requires state crime labs to test kits within 120 days of receiving them. Scott also signed a law allowing the University of Miami to give out free, clean needles and syringes in exchange for used ones. Its goal is to reach drug users, who are particularly susceptible to contracting HIV and AIDS. Taxpayer money can’t be used for the program, which will include a mobile unit to bring the exchange to people without transportation.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will talk jobs at 10 a.m. at Inside Sales Solutions, 1431 4th Street South in St. Petersburg.

DEO WORKERS AT NORTHWOOD CENTER SENT HOME via Jeff Burlew and Sean Rossman of the Tallahassee Democrat – A number of state workers at Northwood Centre got sick … prompting agency officials to let them go home for the day. At least one Department of Economic Opportunity employee fainted at Northwood … and others were reportedly vomiting, said an attorney representing dozens of employees who are suing over environmental and health problems. It was just the latest turn in the unfolding drama at Northwood Centre, where reports of mold, bat guano, sewage and other problems have prompted new rounds of lawsuits and a planned exit of nearly all of the 1,500 state employees with offices there. Dean Izzo, DEO chief of staff, visited the building and told workers they could leave for the day. Employees were instructed to report back to their Northwood offices … DEO executive director Cissy Proctor issued a statement saying the workers, housed in the former Publix building at Northwood, were allowed to leave “out of an abundance of caution.”

FLORIDA CAR INSURANCE AMONG PRICIEST IN THE NATION via Nina Lincoff of the South Florida Business Journal – Florida is No. 5 for most expensive minimum car insurance, according to a new report from CarInsurance.com, which looked at average annual rates across all 50 states. Minimum car insurance in Florida is more than twice as expensive as it is in Alaska, the cheapest state for minimum coverage. On average, Floridians pay $1,058 a year, compared to the $385 North Carolina residents would pay. Rates vary for a variety of reasons, including accident rates and the rate of uninsured drivers. According to another study, Florida is the worst state to get in a car accident because of the high number of uninsured drivers and low insurance requirements.

WHAT BOB BUCKHORN IS READING — VINIK-CASCADE TEAM HIRES TAMPA FIRM FOR $35M INFRASTRUCTURE WORK via Ashley Gurbal Kritzer of the Tampa Bay Business Journal – Strategic Property Partners has selected a Tampa contractor for its roadway reconfiguration and infrastructure work. SPP, the real estate company controlled by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment LLC, said that Kimmins Contracting Corp. has been chosen from five firms that responded to a request for qualifications that went out in January. A portion of the costs will be funded from downtown Tampa’s Community Redevelopment Area funds. CRAs have a state designation that allows them to use locally generated money to fund projects within the CRA.

MY TAKE: THE BULLYING OF A SMALL TOWN via Florida Politics – Residents of the small municipality of Bal Harbour in Miami-Dade County discovered last week that the owners of the Village’s largest shopping center, the Bal Harbour Shops, had sued both the Village, and its Vice-Mayor [Patricia Cohen]. Why? Simply because they would not bend to their will … the lawsuit is ostensibly about public records … Residents feel the suit is more about intimidation and bullying than anything else. For more than three years now, the Shops have been pushing a plan for a $400 million expansion of its mall space, nearly doubling the size of the current square footage and adding close to one thousand new parking spaces. The Shops have not wasted any time in their efforts to impose their will on the Village … demanded the city approves referendum language in a hastily scheduled special meeting of the Village Council March 17, to meet the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections’ deadline to schedule a special election in May. Things didn’t go well for the Shops almost immediately after they tried to fast track their referendum. Although the lawsuit claims that Cohen violated Florida public records law for allegedly refusing to provide official communications dealing with the Shops expansion and the land deal for the village property, many residents feel this is a blatant attempt by the developers to bully Cohen and the inhabitants of the town.

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APPOINTED: Phillip Russell and Elliot Stern to the Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County.


Albert Balido, Anfield Consulting: ProcessMap

Dianne Bean: ACT Aspire

Pete Buigas, Buigas and Associates: Viventium Health Plan

David Ramba, Ramba Consulting Group: Gateway Services Community Development District

William Rubin, The Rubin Group: The Florida Bar, Family Law Section

SAINTPETERSBLOG ALUMNI WATCH: KAREN CYPHERS NAVIGATES DATA WITH DEXTERITY via Marina Brown of the Tallahassee Democrat – Public policy research. Data mining. Strategies. Trends. All of it dry information that might leave some thinking of a nap — but not Karen Cyphers, vice president of Research at Sachs Media Group … It is all about storytelling. “Information, when carefully analyzed, can paint a picture of what is happening now and how best to proceed. It is enlightening. And it is fascinating.” Cyphers, the mother of three girls … has cut a wide-swath through the governmental, health care and communications worlds of Tallahassee. Now, at Sachs Media, she says she’s found the place she wants to stay, the place her skills will make the difference to causes she holds most dear. Cyphers rose quickly in her field. She became active in the Crist and McCollum gubernatorial campaigns and became Gov. Charlie Crist’s Deputy Policy Chief for Health and Human Services. She was Director of Health Care Policy at the Florida Medical Association. She was awarded “Best In-Depth Reporting” by the Florida Magazine Association and sat on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Central and Peripheral Nervous System Drugs Advisory Board. Along with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, they collaborated on an Alzheimer’s series for CNN. The result is the Senator William Proxmire Award which was presented March 14 in Washington, D.C. at the Great Minds Gala. Cyphers says that along the way she has had only wonderful role models in both men and women. “The only challenge I’ve found as a woman is the pressure to wear uncomfortable shoes,” she laughs. She credits her ability to stay calm in the face of chaos and creating a workspace that is a haven for productivity as one of her most important skills. “I so value Sachs Media’s commitment to community service. It is the work I want to do.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our friends Brian Blanco and Glen Gilzean.

House Ethics Committee investigating Corrine Brown

A unanimous vote sealed it: the House Ethics Committee is setting up a special four-person subcommittee to investigate Corrine Brown. 

Meanwhile, the Congresswoman has no comment on the charges or the investigation … something which no doubt will change Friday at her Tallahassee news conference.

The investigation covers “allegations that she engaged in improper conduct relating to certain outside organizations, including allegations that she may have conspired with other persons in connection with fraudulent activity, improperly solicited charitable donations, used campaign funds for personal purposes, used official resources for impermissible nonofficial purposes, failed to comply with tax laws, and made false statements, and/or failed to make required disclosures, to the House of Representatives and Federal Election Commission.”

With Brown scandals currently including her role in the One Door For Education scandal and the questionable role of her aide Von Alexander, it is clear that the committee will have plenty to address.

Notable: the Department of Justice asked the subcommittee to defer action at this time.

“The Department of Justice has asked the Committee to defer consideration of the matters in the Investigative Subcommittee’s jurisdiction. The Committee, following precedent, unanimously recommended to the Investigative Subcommittee that it defer action on its investigation at this time. No other public comment will be made on this matter except in accordance with Committee rules.”

Florida politicians react to Brussels attacks

Attackers detonated bombs at the airport and on a metro train beneath the European Union’s capital on Tuesday, killing at least 26 people and confirming the worst fears of European officials, who proclaimed the continent at war.

Here is a compilation of reactions by Florida politicians to the attacks:

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson:

“Now is the time for steady resolve as we continue to press against the scourge of terrorism. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims of today’s horrific attacks and their families. The bombings in Brussels are a reminder that we must remain vigilant and ‘if you see something, say something’.”

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio:

“This is the latest evidence that the civilized world is under siege from a determined enemy who exploits any openness in our societies to inflict the most harm possible on innocent civilians. ‎My condolences to the families of those lost today and my prayers go out to all those who have been injured. The United States and Europe must be united in striking ISIS wherever they seek safe haven to dismantle this terrorist threat once and for all.”

Governor Rick Scott:

“Thoughts and prayers with the victims their families in Brussels today. Thankful for our military and law enforcement for keeping us safe.”

Lieutenant Governor and U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Lopez-Cantera:

“Our prayers are with the people of Belgium and the victims of these horrific terrorist attacks in Brussels. These attacks of radical extremist terrorism are a painful reminder that the threat of ISIS continues to be a clear and present danger. As President Obama enjoys his Caribbean vacation in Cuba, which was until recently a state sponsor of terrorism, he has yet to outline any concrete plans for eliminating ISIS. We must develop a strategy where America leads and we work with our allies around the globe to wholly and completely wipe ISIS off the face of the planet.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor:

“As I have said before, nothing is more important than the safety of the families of my neighbors and all Americans. We must ensure that law enforcement, intelligence agencies and military service members have the tools they need to keep us safe.  I will continue to work to provide the resources and the will to ourselves and our allies. We will keep America tough and smart and safe.”

U.S. Rep. and U.S. Senate candidate Ron DeSantis:

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings:

 “I am overcome with sadness and anger today, but take solace in knowing that those responsible for these cowardly attacks will be brought to swift and total justice. All of Europe was targeted by this morning’s savagery, yet the values that unite us remain unshaken. We will never relent in our fight against terrorism.”

U.S. Rep. and U.S. Senate candidate David Jolly:

“Today’s barbaric and unjustifiable attacks underscore the need for America and the world to stand united against terrorism.  We also stand united in supporting the people of Belgium and send our deepest condolences to the victims impacted by these attacks. It is times like this that we remain resolved in our fight to protect and preserve the freedoms and liberties that are the foundation of the free world. Let us also be clear, the actions of ISIS or any other terror organization wishing to do harm to innocent people will not dim the light of democracy. These attacks are a solemn reminder that we face a real security threat and we must resolve to confront it before it again reaches our homeland.”

U.S. Rep. and U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy:

“The American people stand in solidarity with Belgium today in condemning the terrorist attacks that struck Brussels this morning. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the victims of these bombings. Our international community must remain united and vigilant in combating extremism and terrorism wherever it occurs.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney:

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those killed and injured today in Brussels,” Rooney said. “ISIS claimed responsibility for these attacks. It’s the latest in a systematic threat which ISIS leadership has been calling for for years, and it will not end here. Europe is the current battleground and will see more attacks like this and Paris. It will only be a matter of time before attacks like this are mounted on a much larger scale in the United States than what we saw in San Bernardino. ISIS has told us that is their goal. They have kept all of their promises so far, so I don’t know why we would ignore them now. We can either sit back and wait to be attacked or we can work with our allies to put an end to ISIS. That is our choice. So far we haven’t been up to the task, as evidence by Brussels this morning.”

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, via Twitter:

“Praying for #Brussels today. The War on Terror is still very real, and it’s a war we can’t afford to lose.”

State Sen. Thad Altman, via Twitter:

“Prayers for the people of Brussels, Belgium, the victims and their families, following the attacks in their country.”

State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, via Twitter:

“My prayers are with the families affected by evil in Brussels today, and I thank our military for keeping us safe at home.”

State Rep. Matt Gaetz, Twitter:

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Brussels. America must stand united with our allies to wipe Islamic terrorism off the map.”

State Rep. Shevrin Jones, vai Twitter:

“Truth is, we have hateful people. We must pray for peace in our world. Prayers to the lives lost in Belgium.”

State Rep. Jeanette Nunez, via Twitter:

“My thoughts and prayers are with all the victims of the terror attacks in #Brussels #Belgium. May God give you comfort and peace.”

State Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, via Facebook:

“My thoughts and prayers are with the Belgian people and all those affected by today’s terror attacks. We must remain vigilant at home and abroad to prevent future acts of brutality.”

State Rep. Ross Spano, via Twitter:

“My thoughts and prayers go out to Brussels and the victims and families whose lives are forever changed by this unthinkable act of terrorism.”

U.S. Senate candidate Todd Wilcox:

“Our enemies are waging a war we must not continue to ignore,” said Wilcox. “The loss of life, the brutal injuries and the destruction that have rocked Brussels are unconscionable, and we as a people must decide that enough is enough.

“Their soldiers don’t march in lock step and they don’t answer to a single general. What they lack in conventional organization, they more than make up for in savagery and disregard for human life. Paris, San Bernardino and now Brussels – their only pattern is that of opportunities seized in the void of real American leadership.

“We are at war whether President Obama wants to admit it or not. Arab Sunni Islamic Terrorists have declared war on all of western society and America. The piece meal attempts to stave off ISIS expansion are not working. The Obama administration is erroneously focusing America’s diplomatic efforts to broker an ever elusive peace in Syria with total disregard for the realities on the ground and a naive assumption that removing Bashir Al Asad will somehow lead to ISIS abandoning their apocalyptic objectives. This isn’t leadership, it’s passive ignorance.”

The Florida GOP offered this image:

pray for belgium

Jac VerSteeg: Political fratricide model fails Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio was convinced the Fratricide Model of politics was his ticket to the top. Now, after one brilliant win and one spectacular loss, the Florida senator claims to have renounced the model.

He will not, he says, run for governor in 2018. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam need not fear a Rubio challenge.

We won’t have Marco Rubio to kick around anymore?

Political fratricide worked for Rubio in 2010 when he broke in line to oppose and defeat Gov. Charlie Crist for a U.S. Senate seat. He was helped along by that year’s Tea Party revolt and the fact that newly Independent Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek split the no-to-Rubio vote.

Just as angry as the 2010 Tea Party faithful but with a new idol, Florida GOP primary voters this month delivered the final blow to Rubio’s second attempt at exploiting the Fratricide Model. They gave Donald Trump a victory in every county except Rubio’s Miami-Dade refuge.

What effect did Rubio’s fratricidal challenge to his mentor (and his better) Jeb Bush have on the contest? What if Rubio had shown respect, bided his time and supported Bush? No way to know, but Florida might have been the firewall for Bush and the anti-Trumpers that it so dismally failed to be for Rubio.

I do not think that every intra-party challenge can be characterized as an example of the Fratricide Model. It’s appropriate for rivals in the same party to let voters decide between them. But when one of the challengers has not earned the right to vie for an office and, further, damages the party or the office he seeks, that is political fratricide.

And that is what Rubio has done. He knocked off Crist – once a Republican rising star – and proceeded to disdain the Senate seat he won. As a result, the seat easily could go to a Democrat this November.

Then, of course, Rubio challenged Jeb. After helping to undermine the clear choice of the GOP establishment, Rubio proceeded to run a horrible campaign. The overall effect boosted Trump’s prospects and hurt the Republican Party.

What will Rubio do next? He claimed, upon returning to work in the Senate – if someone so often a no-show can be said to “return to work” – that, in addition to eschewing a gubernatorial bid, he would not be anybody’s veep.

You never know what to make of a politician’s claim that he won’t seek this or that office. How many times did now-House Speaker Paul Ryan claim that he would not accept the post? (By the way, Ryan also insists he won’t allow himself to be nominated at a fractured GOP convention this summer. Right.)

For Rubio, who has been assailed for overweening ambition, what better strategy than to affect a new humility and express no ambition whatsoever for political office?

Is it really believable that if, by some miracle, he emerges as a vice presidential candidate – perhaps for Ryan at a brokered convention – Rubio would turn down the chance?

It is more believable that Rubio does not plan to run for governor in 2018. Not because he doesn’t lust after political office, but because he was so badly burned this year by the Fratricide Model. Even Rubio should be able to see that he is less qualified and less deserving than the premier GOP candidate for the job, Putnam.

Putnam served in the Florida Legislature and then went on to serve in Congress for 10 years. Unlike Rubio, Putnam actually performed his job diligently and rose to be the third-highest ranking Republican in the U.S. House.

Then, rather than stay in a secure seat in federal office, Putnam chose to return to state politics and has been elected and re-elected as Ag commissioner.

It is worth emphasizing that Putnam’s chosen trajectory brought him voluntarily back to Florida. Rubio’s chosen path was to attempt to move into the White House. Only a failure to reach that goal could bring him the “consolation prize” of a gubernatorial campaign. And even if he were elected governor, he would just treat it as a stepping stone back onto the national stage.

Could Rubio beat Putnam? Considering his drubbing on the Ides of March, the likely answer is no. His decision not to run for governor easily could be a case of sour grapes rather than an example of his newfound humility.

Since Rubio decided to give up his Senate seat, it is hard to see any political path that puts him back on that stage. His best option? Hope that anybody but Trump wins and that Rubio could find a spot in a Ted Cruz or John Kasich administration and bide his time.

But does anyone think that if Rubio saw a chance to return to political prominence he would hesitate to seize it even if it meant running over one of his Republican brethren? Oh, brother.


Jac Wilder VerSteeg is a columnist for The South Florida Sun Sentinel, former deputy editorial page editor for The Palm Beach Post and former editor of Context Florida

Shelby Farah murder trial resumes Monday in Jacksonville

Celllphone store clerk Shelby Farah‘s 2013 slaying shocked Jacksonville to its core.  And a sharp debate continues between the State Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office on whether the trial of James Xavier Rhodes should be a death penalty case.

Farah’s mother, Darlene Farah, and State Attorney’s Office prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda disagree that the death penalty should be sought for defendant Rhodes.

Rhodes shot and killed Shelby Farah, 20, during a 2013 robbery of the Northside MetroPSC store at 3100 N. Main St. N. where she worked.

Darlene Farah has asked as recently as this month that the death penalty not be applied in this case.

Public Defender Matt Shirk asserted in a letter to State Attorney Angela Corey last month, “Mrs. Farah has been particularly vocal concerning her opposition to your office’s decision to seek the death penalty for her daughter Shelby’s murder.”

If the death penalty is pursued, Shirk asserts,  “this case will continue to be litigated for the next 20 or 30 or 40 years. I believe that with every motion, petition or appeal filed on Mr. Rhodes’ behalf, she will relive the pain and loss she has felt since losing Shelby.”

The Farah family has been mourning for two years and seven months since her slaying.

It’s still fresh in her mother’s consciousness. Part of the reason why, Farah says, is that in recent days, “I have seen the video of my daughter getting killed repeatedly.

“James Rhodes didn’t take away one life. He took away many lives. Our lives will never be the same. My life will never be the same,” Farah said Sunday.

Such statement usually help make the case for a maximum penalty. Farah, however, calls it “pathetic that people are trying to use my daughter’s death for their [political] benefit.”

Her blunt take on the case is that many parties have political agendas that are taking priority over her and her family’s needs.

“The days before court dates,” Farah said, are “pure hell” at her house. Indeed, during the 31 months since her daughter’s death her mind has continually been occupied with it.

They are months that have torn the family apart. The kids have a hard time being at home where their sister’s absence remains an open wound, she said. Meanwhile, she said, the case has driven a wedge between her and her son.

Farah, a Jacksonville native, opposes the death penalty in this case, saying that the “state failed … raised and created James Rhodes.” He had been a ward of the state since his parents abandoned him at age 5.  He received physical and sexual abuse in a boys’ home.

Farah’s son supports the death penalty in the case. In spite of his mother’s pleas with the SAO to not show him the video, it was done. Since then, she said, her son has not slept at home, and says that “he hates me” and “never comes home.”

“I can’t help but feel like they are trying to play my son against me,” she said.

Despite her son’s position on capital punishment, Farah said that if Shelby were alive “she’d be trying to help James Rhodes.”

“Everybody always called Shelby the peacemaker,” her mother said.

There is little peace in the Farah home, and hasn’t been in the past 31 months. Farah tells of cooking Christmas dinner and he children decided not to be around to eat it.

Dinner went into the garbage.

Meanwhile, for Darlene Farah, the worries pile up. Her son, years ago, was making trips to visit college football programs. Played multiple positions at Cedar Creek High. Ran a 4.6 40.

“He’s so smart,” Farah added. “Always got perfect FCAT scores.”

Now? He’s dropped out of high school. Drinks more. And his mother frets.

“My son’s going to end up in a morgue or a prison,” Farah said if things don’t turn around.

“I done buried one child. I don’t want to bury another,” Farah said.

The trial resumes Monday morning in Courtroom 503 in the Duval County Courthouse. Long after final sentencing, though, the trial will continue for the Farah family.

Sunburn for March 18 – Florida’s 2018 election cycle has begun

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray, and Jim Rosica.


… at least that’s what it felt like to me as I disembarked from the Disney Magic after four wonderful days away from Sunburn (well, truth be told, there’s a patch of sunburn on top of my head). Two stories dominated Thursday’s Florida politics news, and while they certainly say a lot about what may happen in the year ahead, they are just as much about the 2018 elections.

Marco Rubio returned to Washington, D.C. and promptly put an end to speculation that he would run for re-election to the U.S. Senate or for Governor in 2018.

“I’m not going to be anybody’s vice president. I’m just not gonna — I’m not interested in being vice president. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. I’m not going to be vice president. I’m not running for governor of Florida,” Rubio said.

“I’m going to finish out my term in the Senate over the next 10 months. We’re going to work really hard here and we have some things we want to achieve,” the one-term senator said. “And then I’ll be a private citizen in January.”

While Rubio was taking himself out of the 2018 mix, Rick Scott‘s office confirmed the worst kept secret in Tallahassee: chief of staff Melissa Sellers is leaving the administration April 1. Sellers plans to launch a political consulting business that will work closely with Scott’s political committee, Let’s Get To Work.

With those twin moves — Rubio hanging it up and Sellers hanging out her own shingle — the 2018 election cycle in Florida is officially underway.

Beyond its impact for 2016, Rubio’s retreat means the GOP nomination for governor is Adam Putnam‘s to lose. With more than $3.3 million in his “Florida Grown” political committee and three decades worth of wining political campaigns, Putnam is now the de facto frontrunner for the Republicans.

But ask Jeb Bush what its liked to be tagged with the frontrunner label early on.

Florida Politics was recently told by one A-list Republican that former Speaker Will Weatherford asked they not make any firm commitments right now about the 2018 race. Does that mean Weatherford will run? Not at all, but it’s no secret he’s thinking about it.

Weatherford’s supporters contend he would be able to raise $10 million in his first month on the campaign trail. More important, they say, he has a message that would contrast with that of Putnam, who they point out has been in political office since he was 21.

If not Weatherford, Putnam will face a challenge from some quarter, most likely from a self-financed outsider ala Rick Scott.

As for Scott, it’s clear by Sellers’ decision to set up shop in Tallahassee that he’s running in 2018. That may seem obvious now, but if you would have said anytime before 2015 that Scott, with his cellar-dwelling approval numbers, would be a contender in a 2018 race, you’d have been laughed out of the Governors Club.

One potential candidate who says we won’t see them running in 2018 to replace Scott is Pam Bondi.

Right after after Fox News’ Neil Cavuto introduced her as a “frontrunner, maybe” for Governor, the Republican Attorney General squashed the idea.

“I will say on the record, I am not running for governor,” Bondi said. “I’m supporting Adam Putnam who I feel, he is our Agricultural Commissioner, and I think he’ll be a great governor for our state.”

Put Bondi down for making the first endorsement in an election cycle more than three years away.


MARCO RUBIO: I WON’T BE ANYONE’S VP via Burgess Everett of POLITICO – Rubio ruled out becoming a vice presidential candidate … “Clearly, Ted [Cruz]’s positions are conservative, but I don’t have anything further to elaborate on. I don’t have anything to announce,” Rubio said … “Hopefully there’s still time to prevent a Trump nomination, which I think would fracture the party and be damaging to the conservative movement.” But Rubio ruled out a “unity ticket” as vice president to Cruz — or to anyone else, for that matter: “I’m not going to be anybody’s vice president.” Rubio said he will throw himself headlong back into a job that he all but abandoned months ago.

RUBIO NEARS TED CRUZ ENDORSEMENT via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Rubio is close to endorsing Ted Cruz, but the two proud senators … have some details to work out first. Cruz has to ask for the Rubio’s endorsement, and both sides need to decide that it will make a difference, according to sources familiar with the thinking of both senators.

CLUES IN DONALD TRUMP’S FLORIDA DOMINATION ABOUT THE GENERAL ELECTION via Matt Dixon and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – The turnout numbers from Trump’s 19-point victory indicate the New York billionaire’s pugilistic, anti-establishment rhetoric helped expand the Republican electorate, but the ramifications of that as the campaign transitions from primary to general election remain the subject of dissection by political pros of all partisan persuasions. “I don’t deny he’s bringing in new people, but it’s being offset by the people who are coming in to vote against him and the people who are already here who don’t support him,” said Tim Miller, who served as communication director for Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign and is now spokesman for Our Principles, the anti-Trump super PAC. Exit polls Tuesday night showed an average of 38 percent of the Republican voters in the five states where primaries were held, including Florida, said they would consider voting for a third party candidate if Trump won the GOP nomination.

DISHEARTENED POLITICIANS BACKING RUBIO NOT READY TO MOVE ON TO DONALD TRUMP via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – “It is very difficult for me to see Rubio move on,” state Rep. Julio Gonzalez … a member of Rubio’s Florida leadership team, said. “I feel Marco had the best qualities of any of the other 17 candidates that had put themselves out there. All of the rest of the candidates are seriously flawed.” He’s hardly alone. More than a half-dozen members of Rubio’s leadership team in Florida said over the last 48 hours that they are not ready to unite behind Trump, with many leaving open the possibility of never getting behind him and holding out a glimmer of hope that a contested Republican National Convention could revive Rubio’s chances. For those running for re-election and facing Republican primaries in the fall, supporting Trump or not has consequences that could affect their own races. Rather than committing, many are just staying out of the discussion all together.

DAVID JOLLY, TODD WILCOX TRADE JABS OVER “INSIDER” POLITICIAN CLAIMS via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – With Florida’s presidential primary all of 38 hours in the rearview mirror, Florida U.S. Senate candidates are now ready to take center stage. That was clear … when Jolly tried to ignite a mini-Twitter feud with fellow Republican Wilcox over who is the insider candidate in an election year that has so far been defined by who is the outsider candidate. Just before 9 a.m. Jolly started the skirmish accusing Wilcox of lifting parts of GOP presidential candidate John Kasich‘s budget plan and adopting it as his own. In a series of tweets, Jolly says Wilcox cannot take and “insiders” budget plan and call it an outsider plan. Wilcox, a businessman, fired back, making sure to note that Jolly is a congressman and a “Washington Politician” and even includes a little dig on being a K-Street insider.

TWEET, TWEET: @GoMeteoric: Leave it to a Lobbyist/Congressman to mock balancing the budget and giving tax relief.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Tiger Bay Club of Tampa will host a town hall debate between Jolly and Wilcox beginning noon at the Chester H. Ferguson Law Center, 1610 North Tampa St. next to Stetson Law School. More information and RSVP at www.tigerbay.com.

CARLOS BERUFF SAYS HIS BUSINESS HISTORY IS WHY HE WOULD BE GOOD FOR SENATE via Florida Politics – At a meeting of the NW Orange Republican Women Federated … Senate hopeful Beruff outlined why he would be right for the job. [He spoke] about his upbringing and business acumen. His family immigrated from Cuba to the U.S. in 1957, after a failed attack on the presidential palace in Havana. “My mother was the only woman conspirator in that pack,” he said. “She ran an exile to Miami, where I was born in 1958. I got the lottery ticket to be an American citizen that day. My brother and sister were both born in Havana. Two years we went back to Cuba, thinking Fidel Castro was gonna be a great guy. That didn’t work out too well.” Beruff said his record of creating businesses and jobs as a homebuilder in Manatee County convinced him he could do the same on a larger scale in the Senate. “I’ve created jobs, I’ve stimulated the economy, and I’ve built a business,” he said. “I can do that for the nation.”

CARLOS LOPEZ-CANTERA PLANS ‘FLORIDA FIRST’ CAMPAIGN SWING via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The Republican Senate hopeful will kick off his “Florida First Tour” April 4 … the tour will give Lopez-Cantera a chance to meet with Floridians to talk about job creation, economic opportunity, education and veterans’ services.

— “Patrick Murphy announces endorsement of 45 congressional Democrats” via POLITICO

WHO WILL REPLACE JEFF MILLER? via Will Isern of the Pensacola News-Journal  As the political dominoes begin to fall following Miller‘s announcement that he will not seek re-election, several names are being floated as potential candidates to replace the outgoing congressman … The name  mentioned more than others is that of state Sen. Greg Evers … If Evers does announce a run for Miller’s seat, it would open up a three-way race among the local state representatives to fill his Senate seat. State Reps. Clay IngramMike Hill and Doug Broxson … Would announce for Evers’ seat should he run for Congress. One name that can be ruled out of contention for Miller’s seat is state Sen. Don Gaetz, who announced on that he would not run. … Matt Gaetz, however, is expected to announce for Miller’s seat … Other names being floated are Escambia County Supervisor of Elections David Stafford, and Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward. If Evers does announce and the three representatives all vie for his seat, Pensacola Republican power broker Jim Reeves says a slew of new faces are likely to emerge to run for the state House … electrical engineer Scott Adams and Escambia Republican Executive Committee member Jeremy Evans to contend for Ingram’s District 1 seat … Frank White, son-in-law of Sandy Sansing, would run for Hill’s District 2 seat; and Santa Rosa County Commissioner Jayer Williamson would purse Doug Broxson‘s District 3 seat.

CORRINE BROWN FUNDRAISES FOR IMPENDING “COURT BATTLE” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – This can’t be a good sign … “Friends of Congresswoman Corrine Brown 2016” is raising money for an impending legal battle. It’s not anything to do with One Door for Education. Rather, it’s a more familiar fight. Brown writes, “as you probably know, I’m in the fight of my political life. Bullies have played a dirty trick to force me out of office by redrawing my Congressional district to cover a largely rural area of north Florida and include 22 prisons, and convicted felons can’t vote … This dirty trick would prevent me from representing so many of the Florida communities I love. Before I took office no African-American in Florida had never been elected to Congress.”

FOUR ST. PETERSBURG CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS ENDORSE CHARLIE CRIST via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times – Darden RiceJim KennedyKarl Nurse and Lisa Wheeler-Brown threw their support behind Crist, who is currently battling former Obama administration official Eric Lynn for the Democratic nomination in the 13th Congressional District. Crist, said Rice, was the right candidate to cut through the “obstruction” and “partisan battles” in Washington, D.C. The former governor is non-partisan, cooperative and listens to people, said Kennedy. He supports education and environmental progress, said Nurse. And, perhaps, most interestingly, Crist, a veteran politician whose public career stretches back nearly 25 years, represents a fresh face for the nation’s capital, said Wheeler-Brown.

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SAVE THE DATE: Friends of Florida Agriculture is hosting a barbecue event Saturday, April 2, honoring Putnam and featuring Republican U.S. Senate candidates Ron DeSantisLopez-Cantera and Wilcox. Event begins 12 p.m. at the Ben Hill Griffin’s Peace River Ranch, 1445 Ben Hill Griffin Road in Zolfo Springs. Tickets are $25 per person, $50 per family (kids come free), and are available at www.Floridagrown.eventbright.com. RSVP with Julie Fazekas at RSVP@AdamPutnam.com or (863) 537-7001.

RITCH WORKMAN NOT LEAVING STATE SENATE RACE — NO MATTER WHAT MIKE HARIDOPOLOS IS SAYING via Florida Politics – Workman, term-limited from running again for the Florida House, says the former Senate President is contacting political allies in Tallahassee and in the newly-renumbered SD 17 floating his possible candidacy in the race and, to Workman’s chagrin, saying Workman intends to drop out of the race. Workman [said] Haridopolos is free to jump into the campaign, but he’s dismayed Haridopolos would use what he characterized as underhanded tactics in order to strong-arm his way into the seat. “He is welcome to get in the race,” said Workman, “but to start his campaign on a straight faced lie is disappointing.”

LINDA CHAPIN ENDORSES MIKE CLELLAND FOR SENATE via Florida Politics – Former Orange County Mayor Chapin came out with an endorsement of former House Rep. Clelland in his run for the open SD 13 seat Thursday. Chapin, the first Orange mayor elected countywide, trumpeted Clelland’s past experience in the Legislature and as a community leader in her endorsement of Clelland, a fellow Democrat. “I am endorsing Mike Clelland for Florida Senate because he has demonstrated the courage to take on entrenched political interests on behalf of our citizens,” said Chapin in a glowing review. “He is a lifelong public servant who will fight for working families in Central Florida.”

ED NARAIN PROUD OF HIS ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN THE HOUSE, READY TO ADVANCE IN THE SENATE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The 39-year-old second-term representative from Tampa had a very good session, as good as any member in the House Democratic caucus … sponsoring a bill to remove and replace the statue of General Edmund Kirby Smith from the National Statuary Hall in Washington D.C. … also sponsored the legislation in the House that finally addresses the legacy of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna … If things go as he intends, Narainwill be serving in the state Senate in 2017. Last week he made the somewhat surprising announcement that he will take on fellow Democrats Betty Reed and Darryl Rouson for the state Senate District 19 … Narain said from the time he started working in the House last year he’s been fending off requests that he run for the Senate.

RAY PILON JUMPS INTO SENATE RACE; EDWARD JAMES NOW UNOPPOSED IN HD 72 via Florida Politics – Pilon decided to forgo a 2016 re-election bid for a fourth term in the House in favor of a Senate District 28 campaign, leaving his Democratic opponent Edward James running unopposed in a coastal swing seat. Pilon said his decision came from the resolution of Senate maps and local considerations. Sarasota Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters declared publicly last year Pilon would not seek the seat when rumors first emerged, but Pilon said that contradicted his camp’s internal thinking. “We were honestly contemplating it (then),” Pilon said. “We saw what the maps were, took time to explore it and network it and made our decision.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Democratic Senate District 34 hopeful Gary Farmer is hosting a grand opening celebration for his Fort Lauderdale office. Event is Saturday, beginning 9 a.m. at the Rose Valley Arts Building, 2300 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Suite 300 in Fort Lauderdale. Parking is free and light refreshments and breakfast will be provided. More information with field director Jacob Flaherty at (845) 264-2783.

SAVE THE DATE: Democrat Jim Waldman is holding a volunteer organizing brunch Saturday for his campaign for Senate District 34. Event will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. RSVP online for location details.

— “Wayne Harris adds $15K to pass 6-figure mark in HD 4 race via Florida Politics

HD 11 CONTEST GETS CROWDED, AS SEVENTH REPUBLICAN ENTERS RACE via Florida Politics – David Bunk of Fernandina Beach put in his paperwork … now faces fellow Republicans Cord ByrdJack DanielsBarry HollowayDonnie HornerTom Taylor and Sheri Treadwell in the race for [JanetAdkins’ seat, which covers northern Duval County and all of Nassau County. Horner currently leads the pack in fundraising, with more than $100,000 in contributions, though Treadwell has a slight advantage in cash on hand. Heading into March, Treadwell had about $88,000 on hand while Horner had just under $82,000.

DEMOCRAT PRESTON OUGHTON FILES IN HD 16 via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Oughton is an attorney and a graduate of the local Florida Coastal School of Law. Oughton will face the winner of the primary between School Board member Jason Fischer and Dick Kravitz, a former State Legislator who now works in a greeter/customer service role at the Duval County Supervisor of Elections even while he runs an active campaign, a position Kravitz secured after endorsing the Supervisor of Elections in last year’s election. No matter whether Kravitz or Fischer emerges, Oughton faces an uphill battle in terms of fundraising.

AFTER OPPONENTS DROP OUT, SCOTT PLAKON DRAWS ONE DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGE IN HD 29 via Florida Politics – Fred Marra filed for the Seminole County seat earlier this month and, with Libertarian David Leavitt and fellow Democrat Chuck O’Neal both ending their HD 29 campaigns, he is currently the only candidate challenging Plakon.

BRUCE ANTONE DRAWS DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY CHALLENGER IN HD 46 via Florida Politics – Democrat Sheena Meade filed to run for the House District 46 seat … she plans to peg Antone as one of the “same old elected officials” practicing the “same old politics” voters are frustrated with. Meade, 20, said her campaign’s message will include a “renewed focus on early childhood education, a common-sense approach to increasing homeownership within the district, a more hands-on role in supporting classroom teachers and ensuring that we prioritize school spending directly on students and classrooms.” Currently, Antone and Meade are the only two candidates filed to run for the Orange County seat, where Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 5-to-1.

RENE PLASENCIA’S INTERN FILES IN HD 49 RACE via Florida Politics – Amber Mariano filed paperwork to run for the seat as a Republican … joining Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith, who worked as former chief of staff for Rep. Joe Saunders when he held the seat from 2012 through 2014. HD 49 has a sizable Democratic majority and was a big pickup for Republicans in 2014, when Plasencia squeaked by Saunders with 51 percent of the vote. The district, which includes the University of Central Florida and its trove of young voters, has about 11,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. When he won his only term in the House, Saunders defeated Republican Marco Pena with 56 percent of the vote.

— “Brian Hodgers widens fundraising lead in HD 52 race” via Florida Politics

SEAN SHAW THANKS SUPPORTERS FOR EARLY FUNDRAISING PUSH via Florida Politics – “In just 72 hours, you’ve given more than $5,000,” said Shaw. “Because of your response, we’re already putting together our team and building the GOTV operation that will win here.” The Princeton graduate and former Insurance Consumer Advocate … is hoping his third crack at the House will be a winner. Shaw ran in Rep. Alan Williams‘ Tallahassee-based HD 8 back in 2008 and in HD 61 in 2014. So far no other candidate has filed in the east Tampa seat, left vacant when Rep. Ed Narain announced a run for state Senate. “With the election more than five months away, there’s lots of work to do,” said Shaw.

SAVE THE DATE: Republican Kathleen Peters is holding a fundraiser Wednesday, March 30, for her House District 69 re-election effort. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the Edwards group 150 Second Ave. N., Suite 1600 in St. Petersburg.

— “Byron Donalds adds nearly $7K for HD 80 run, hitting $90K” via Florida Politics

SCANDAL-PLAGUED DAVID RIVERA MOUNTING LEGISLATIVE COMEBACK via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – “Today I launched my candidacy for the Florida House of Representatives in District 118!” Rivera wrote in an email to potential supporters … “And the best part is, I have already gathered nearly 2,000 petition signatures from voters within the district who want me to serve as their representative in Tallahassee.” Rivera’s announcement comes a day after his former friend, Marco Rubio, withdrew from the presidential race after he was shellacked by Donald Trump in [the] Florida primary. Top Rubio supporters dislike Rivera and many tried to keep him away from the presidential campaign, with mixed success. Rivera remains under federal investigation for his alleged participation in a scheme to fund a ringer candidate with at least $81,000 in secret money to undermine a rival in a 2012 congressional race.

IN DEBUT RE-ELECTION VIDEO, MIAMI-DADE MAYOR EMBRACES COUNTY’S RECOVERY FROM RECESSION via Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald – Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is linking his tenure with the local economy’s recovery from a housing crash and brutal recession. “How things have changed since Mayor Carlos Gimenez took office four years ago,” the narrator states, citing increased housing sales, employment and the largest property-tax cut in the history of the county. “Mayor Gimenez kept his promises.” Gimenez took office in 2011 on the promise of reversing the increase in property-tax rates that his predecessor implemented. Gimenez delivered on the 12-percent cut, undoing the increase championed by then-Mayor Carlos Alvarez, who was recalled weeks before Gimenez took office in a special election. The Gimenez video was produced by Miami-Dade Residents First, one of his political committees backing Gimenez’s re-election. It was the first video from Gimenez, and follows a string of videos challenger Raquel Regalado has been producing since before she joined the mayoral race in early 2015.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by the American Council of Life Insurers. In 2014 alone, life insurers proudly paid out more than $28 billion in life insurance benefits to Floridians, with close to 100 percent of all claims received by life insurers paid to beneficiaries. Additionally, life insurers help power Florida’s economy by investing approximately $266 billion in our state and generating approximately 144,000 Florida jobs. Learn more about the positive impact of the life insurance industry in Florida. ***

RICK SIGNS BUDGET, VETOES $256 MILLION AS PROMISED via the Associated Press — Scott signed the $82 billion budget on Thursday, following through with planned budget vetoes he announced earlier this week. The Republican governor vetoed dozens of spending items, including money for roads, cultural projects, health care and law-enforcement programs.This year’s total amount of budget vetoes is less than half of what the governor eliminated last year. Last year, his nearly $500 million worth of budget vetoes sparked the ire of top legislators since they came with little notice.

TOP AIDES TO SCOTT — MELISSA SELLERS, TIM CERIO — STEPPING DOWN via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – Scott announced that his Chief of Staff and general counsel are stepping down from their posts. Their last day is April 1Sellers has been Scott’s chief of staff since November 2014. Cerio has been Scott’s general counsel since January 2015. Cerio previously worked at the Gray Robinson law firm and is returning to private practice.

FLASHBACK to 2/22 on Florida Politics: “Maybe Sellers really will leave the administration … right before Sellers ties the knot April 16.”

BOOK IT: Deputy Chief of Staff Kim McDougal will replace Sellers as CoS.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD DELIVERS 12,000 PETITIONS OPPOSING ABORTION BILL via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The group, led by National Organization for Women’s lobbyist Barbara DeVane and Regina Sheridan, a Tallahassee-based activist, asked to meet with the governor about the petitions, but an aide told them he was not in the office. The petitions in part read, “Instead of attacking women’s rights and endangering their health, the legislature should focus on improving women’s health.” HB 1411 would create tough new rules for clinics, requiring doctors to have admitting privileges or transfer agreements with nearby hospitals and treating them more similarly to surgical centers under the law. It defines in statute the length of each trimester of a pregnancy, aligning with arguments used by the state in a battle with Planned Parenthood. The bill would also cut all Medicaid funding for non-abortion services — like cancer screenings or STD tests — at any clinic that performs elective abortions. Abortion rights activists argue that the combined effect of all these provisions is fewer clinics.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR GAMBLING IN FLORIDA: COURTS CALL THE SHOTS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – When legislators finished their annual session without a gaming bill or a compact with the Seminole Tribe, they raised the stakes on the future of casinos in Florida … precisely where gaming opponents want it. Instead of lawmakers deciding the future of expanded gambling, that decision will now be made by the courts in pending lawsuits before the Florida Supreme Court and a federal judge. The court could conclude that lawmakers have no authority to authorize slot machines outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties without statewide voter approval, thereby neutering the Legislature’s influence. It could say that only the Legislature can decide where to put new games. Or a third option — the most explosive of all and the one the plaintiffs are hoping for — could open the door to unprecedented expansion of slot machines if the court rules that Palm Beach and Gadsden counties could seek permits to install slots machines because local voters have approved it. “It could become a free-for-all for slot machines across the state,” said Rep. Jose Felix Diaz … who spent the last six months trying to work out a compact with the governor and the tribe, as well as a gaming bill that suited the Senate and the diverse interests of the pari-mutuel industry.

FPL SUBMITS $1.3 BILLION PROPOSAL TO PSC via Jim Ash of WFSU – Millions of Florida Power and Light customers would see higher monthly bills if regulators approve the investor-owned utility’s $1.3 billion proposal … to help pay for infrastructure improvements. The company says the increases would cover the costs of strengthening power lines, three large solar energy centers and to complete a natural gas plant in Okeechobee County, among other things. The proposal asks for annual increases, beginning with 866 million in 2017 … the typical customer bill will grow at roughly the rate of inflation from now through 2020.


Jennifer Helen Ashton: First Protective Insurance Company

Joseph Farrell: Hernando County Association of Realtors; Pinellas Realtor Organization

Edgar Fernandez, Anfield: City of Flagler Beach; IBS Construction Group

Cynthia Henderson, Cynergy Consulting: CIOX Health; Shiver Properties

Berdell KnowlesJohn Allen Worley Jr.: JEA

Jerry Presley, Presley Consulting Group: Central Florida Small Business Council

Scott RossKenneth Granger, Capital City Consulting: GDKN Corporation

Wansley WaltersStephanie Grutman Zauder, Ballard Partners: Global Tel*Link Corporation; Florida Juvenile Justice Association; Uber Technologies

Derek Whitis, Whitis Consulting: Florida Psychological and Associated Healthcare; Florida Psychological Associates; Lake Wales Charter Schools; Queralyze; The Latt Maxcy Corporation

Larry Williams, Gunster Yoakley Stewart: Frontier Communications Corporation


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James  on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: A discussion with political analyst Dr. Lawrence Miller on “Who owns to GOP? The RNC or Donald Trump?”

Facing Florida with Mike Vasilinda: Republican Senate candidate U.S. Rep. David Jolly.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: WTSP 10 News Investigative reporter Noah Pransky; Hillsborough Young Republicans Secretary Holly Holobyn; Democratic political consultant Franco Ripple; and Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times.

On Point with Shannon Ogden on WFCN in Jacksonville: Rep. Janet Adkins on the recent move to test backlogged rape kits, Democratic CD-5 candidate J.L. Holloway, and Prof. Michael Binder of University of North Florida on Tuesday’s presidential primaries.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Presidential Primary recap show, with speeches from Tuesday night and analysis from Michelle Ertel and Jeremiah Jaspon. PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates a claim regarding the 9/11 attacks and the families of the terrorists. Plus a new installment of “Common Ground” with Democrat Alex Sink and Republican Chris Ingram.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Hosts Gary YordonSteve Vancore, and Sean Pittman.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Angela Corey, State Attorney for the 4th Judicial Circuit and Asst. State Attorney Rich Mantei, plus Josh Newman of Newman Strategies and Solutions and Chris Hand, co-author of “America: The Owner’s Manual.”

***Tally Food Insider 101 is a Signature Culinary Entertainment Dinner Series designed to bring handcrafted experiences with a bold signature to Tallahassee. Each dinner concept is uniquely designed to tell a story that expands from the design and decor to the menu which features unique courses created with local fresh ingredients farmed within 100 miles of Tallahassee for the most part and prepared to deliciousness by Executive Chef Jason Bruner. Each dinner design incorporates the work of a local Tallahassee artist and features a local musician to complete a one-of-a-kind Thursday night experience to delight all the senses. Reserve your spot today!***

HULK HOGAN TRIAL MAY BE NEAR END, WITH CLOSING ARGUMENTS FRIDAY via Tamara Lush of The Associated Press – Jurors will hear closing arguments in ex-pro wrestler Hulk Hogan‘s lawsuit against Gawker Media over a sex video … Also, a Florida court ruled in favor of a group of media companies that wanted documents unsealed in the case. The 2nd District Court of Appeals in Lakeland ruled that sealed documents in the case are public records and should be available to the public and the press. Earlier, lawyers for Gawker showed Hogan a promo video of him wearing T-back underwear and parodying the Miley Cyrus “Wrecking Ball” video. They also played a video of a Hulk Hogan deposition in which Hogan discussed his wrestling persona, his true identity, branding and celebrity. They also asked him if he tried to “shape” any of the media interviews he did in the days after the sex video was posted, by asking media outlets to not discuss the video. “I don’t recall,” Hogan said.

SEAWORLD TO STOP BREEDING ORCAS, MAKING THEM PERFORM TRICKS via Jennifer Kay and Mike Schneider of The Associated Press – Finally bowing to years of public pressure, SeaWorld … will immediately stop breeding killer whales, and soon stop making them perform theatrical tricks. SeaWorld’s 29 orcas will remain on display at the company’s theme parks, but in “new, inspiring natural orca encounters,” the company said. Attendance at SeaWorld’s parks dropped after the 2013 release of “Blackfish,” a highly critical documentary. SeaWorld reported a fourth-quarter loss of $11 million in February. SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby said he approached the company’s killer whale quandary with a “fresh perspective” since taking the helm less than a year ago, and he realized, “society is shifting here.”

TAMPA ENTERS RUNNING TO HOST ADDITIONAL SUPER BOWL via Frances McMorris of the Tampa Bay Business Journal – Tampa will be competing to host the Super Bowl in 2021 as well as 2019 and 2020. “It’s my understanding the dates have also been expanded to include a third Super Bowl; we’re talking 2019, 2020 and 2021,” Dennis Rogero, chief of staff for Mayor Bob Buckhorn, told the Tampa City Council … Tampa is competing with Atlanta, New Orleans, Miami and Los Angeles. “There is a host committee being formed,” Rogero said. Outside the council chamber he said that Tampa is “very, very well positioned to not only be awarded it but to handle it very well.” The final bid is due in April followed by a presentation and vote to take place in May.

NEW X-MEN: APOCALYPSE TRAILER FROLICS THROUGH THE END OF DAYS via Brian Raferty of Wired – The sequel to 2014’s time-traveling X-Men: Days of Future Past is set in 1983, and focuses on an ancient mutant named Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), who forcefully reawakens after thousands of years, hoping to once again lead his super-powered people. The only thing that can stop Apocalypse is, of course, Xavier’s team of outcast mutants, who’ll need to fight to secure their future (and, it should be noted, the future of mankind). They’re led here by both the good professor and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and staffed by such fresh-faced members as Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), and Quicksilver (Evan Peters). “You’re not students anymore,” Mystique tells the youngin’s in her why-we-fight speech. “You’re X-Men.” But will even they be able to stop an apoplectic Apocalypse from sending Earth back to the bad old days? We’ll find out when X-Men: Apocalypse opens May 27.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Kelsey Frouge, St. Petersburg City Councilman Steve Kornell, Florida TaxWatch’s Rob WeissertSean Shaw. Celebrating today is the FEA’s Andy Ford and Ron Matus.

North Broward Hospital District board chairman, committee chairman suspended

On Friday, the state Inspector General sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott outlining serious concerns about how the North Broward Hospital Board has functioned during her investigation of the board’s contracts from 2012 to the present.

The worry: “possible improprieties” or “inappropriate actions,” including violations of charter or law.

The IG asked that David DiPietro and Darryl Wright, board chairman and Audit Committee chairman, be suspended, given an ability or a “perceived ability” to “retaliate/interfere” or “operate in a perceived management role of Broward Health.”

Among the myriad letters sent from Inspector General Melinda Miguel to Chairman DiPietro: a March 1 missive cautioning against “adverse personnel or retaliatory action against any person participating in the review.”

Clearly, she was not reassured by the actions in the time since that letter was sent. Those actions include hiring the Berger Siegelman law firm as outside counsel for the board. That was construed, by the Attorney General’s office, to violate statute related to noninterference, and to constitute malfeasance, providing support for the move to suspend the members.

At issue is the conflation of board oversight functions and managerial functions.

On Friday, the Governor issued executive orders suspending both men from their roles, so that they do not interfere with the audit.

The Inspector General’s complaints included the board hiring, at taxpayers’ expense, an outside firm to “manage” the audit for them.

The state inquiry came into being shortly after the CEO of Broward Health committed suicide by gunshot in January.

At issue are seven contracts, five with companies (EmCare, MedAssets, Premier Inc., G4S, and Zimmerman Advertising), and two with physicians, reported the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in February.

In Florida, professor predicts “hate election”

If it comes down to a Trump vs. Clinton matchup, how will Florida vote?

As usual, it’s a tossup.

Even though Donald Trump is alienating Florida’s growing Hispanic population, and Hillary Clinton has high unfavorables of her own, the state is poised to swing once again in November, with voters mobilized to cast a ballot against a candidate rather than for one.

“A lot of anger, even hate, will motivate this election,” said Michael McDonald, associate professor of political science at the University of Florida.

“Republicans are largely dissatisfied with their candidates. None get typically over 50 percent. And on the GOP side, the #NeverTrump movement is trying to prevent Trump from getting the nomination. Within the Republican Party, Trump is a very polarizing figure, and we have indications that in a general election the Democrats will be energized to vote against Trump,” McDonald told WJCT.

“However, with Hillary Clinton, who at this point looks to be solidly in the lead on the Democratic side for the nomination, Republicans have been primed for years to feel antagonistic towards the Clintons. So many Republicans will also be motivated, even the #NeverTrump ones, to find him more palatable than a Hillary Clinton presidency.”

McDonald says despite the intense, negative emotions this cycle, at least voter participation should be robust.

“We could see very high turnout in Florida, as people see very stark differences between the candidates and people go to the polls to make a choice that’s meaningful to them.”

And McDonald says in Florida, what will tell the tale is which voting bloc is most motivated to cast a “hate” vote: energized Latinos in the I-4 corridor, for example, who don’t want Trump, or disaffected white voters who haven’t typically been politically engaged.

Jac VerSteeg: What has Marco Rubio done for Florida? Zip

My Context Florida colleague Martin Dyckman encourages Republicans who want to stop Donald Trump to vote for Marco Rubio in Florida’s winner-take-all primary on March 15. It’s a shame that Dyckman can’t get more help from Rubio himself.

While stopping Trump is a noble motivation, it probably isn’t sufficient. Voters judging incumbents – and that’s what Rubio is in Florida – want to know what the incumbent has done for them while in office.

In Rubio’s case, that’s close to nothing. In 2010, he was elected to the Senate with almost 49 percent of the vote. Independent Charlie Crist got nearly 30 percent and Democrat Kendrick Meek about 20.  Republicans liked Rubio because they considered Crist a traitor for literally embracing President Barack Obama’s stimulus. Meek was the spoiler who ensured Rubio’s victory.

Florida’s important Hispanic voters saw Rubio as one of their own.

But Rubio has betrayed Florida’s Hispanic voters by renouncing immigration reform. This might not hurt him among Cuban-Americans, many of whom still view the prospect of his potential elevation to the White House as a source of pride.

But other Florida Hispanics, like those nationwide, can view Rubio’s new hostility to immigration reform as proof of his elitism. Cubans, after all, are treated as special cases when it comes to immigration. There is no reason for Mexican-Americans and other Latinos to look on Rubio with favor.

Then, of course, there is Rubio’s infamously bad voting record in the U.S. Senate. While many, many of Donald Trump’s assertions are lies, he was correct, according to Politifact, when he said during a recent debate that, “This guy has the No. 1 absentee record in the U.S. (Senate). He doesn’t show up to vote.”

In the past year, Rubio has missed 41 percent of votes. Ted Cruz has missed 36 percent. Bernie Sanders has missed just 19 percent – although if you restrict the time frame to just 2016, Sanders has the worst attendance record according to The Washington Post.

Why would Floridians flock to vote for a guy who is supposed to represent their interests but doesn’t bother to show up to work?

Granted, conservative Republicans often say they will judge candidates by what they stop rather than by what they enact. But if that’s the yardstick, Rubio falls short as do all GOP incumbents. They haven’t stopped abortion. They haven’t stopped Obamacare. They haven’t deported illegal immigrants. Trump says he will. Perhaps he will fail, but in the eyes of Trump’s supporters, Rubio already has failed.

Rubio does brag that, via a clever amendment to a spending bill, he was able to throw a monkey wrench into Obamacare. His amendment makes it harder for struggling insurance plans to stay in business. Perhaps that will help him in a Republican primary. But by opposing and hampering Obamacare, Rubio is attacking a program that 1.6 million Floridians rely on for health care coverage.

If you look at the bills Rubio actually has passed, the record is not impressive. According to GovTrack, Rubio has sponsored 107 bills. Of those, two passed the Senate. One of them offered a $10 million reward for information on the kidnapping and murder of hostages James Foley and Steve Sotloff. The other was in honor of Vaclav Havel.

Rubio won approval for 13 resolutions for such things as “honoring the lives of the 33 crew members aboard the El Faro,” designating September 2014 as “National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month,” another “recognizing the importance and inspiration of the Hubble Space Telescope” and several congratulating the Miami Heat for winning the NBA championship.

How many Rubio-sponsored bills did the president actually sign into law? Exactly one, the “Girls Count Act of 2015.”

The bill is an act “To authorize the Secretary of State and the Administrator for the United States Agency for International Development to provide assistance to support the rights of women and girls in developing countries.”

Commendable, but hardly a legislative career to inspire Florida’s conservative Republicans to swoon over Rubio’s candidacy and to turn out in droves to vote for him.

Rubio’s campaign is based on what he is – a fresh, young, conservative face – rather than on what he has done. That strategy is necessary because, in the U.S. Senate, Rubio has done virtually nothing. Even his achievements as a state legislator were – as Context Florida publisher Peter Schorsch has noted – mostly because of  then-Gov. Jeb Bush.

The problem is that the Republican base likes what Donald Trump is more than they like what Marco Rubio is. To them, Rubio is the guy who had his chance and blew it. Trump is the guy who still has the chance to blow things up.

Rubio’s campaign wants the horrified branch of the GOP to think that he is the guy who can stop Trump and Cruz and then rally the party behind him to win in November. Rubio can’t do that if he is the guy who can’t even win the GOP primary in his home state.

As March 15 approaches, Rubio is plagued by this question: Marco, what have you done for Florida lately?

• • •

Jac Wilder VerSteeg is a columnist for The South Florida Sun Sentinel, former deputy editorial page editor for The Palm Beach Post and former editor of Context Florida