Major storm may put Florida politics on pause


Hello and welcome to Monday.

The latest — Ian has now reached hurricane strength and the latest 5 a.m. advisory puts it on a collision course with the west coast of Florida after it crosses Cuba and crosses into the Gulf of Mexico. A hurricane watch has been issued for parts of the state.

Get ready — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sunday warned Floridians to be prepared and activated 2,500 members of the Florida National Guard in anticipation of the storm’s effects. He also said that power outages would likely happen and that there would be “fuel disruptions.” Schools were closed in some districts along Florida’s west coast, and there were reports that some stores from Pinellas County even to Tallahassee were running low on supplies as Floridians flocked to stores.

History — This is the first major storm that is expected to hit Florida since DeSantis became governor. Hurricane Michael ripped into the Panhandle, leveling the town of Mexico Beach, four years ago on the eve of the 2018 elections. Michael’s fierce onslaught into the state essentially froze the races for governor and Senate as campaigning was halted for several days. Then-Gov. Rick Scott remained off the campaign trail as he focused on the response to the devastating storm.

Impact — President Joe Biden was scheduled to visit the state on Tuesday, including joining with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist in Orlando. But the White House postponed that trip after news of Ian’s impending arrival.

Pivot? — The question is whether the statewide campaigns will halt television ads and campaign appearances due to a serious storm that could cause widespread problems, especially if it hits near the vulnerable Tampa Bay region.

Response — “We are closely monitoring the storm and are taking everything into consideration given the potential severity,” said Sam Ramirez, a spokeswoman for Crist. “As of right now we have not made any final decisions as far as ads. But we are preparing to mobilize and deploy campaign assets in any way we can to support in potential recovery efforts.” The DeSantis campaign did not respond on Sunday to questions about their campaign efforts.

— WHERE’S RON? — Gov. DeSantis is expected to be in Tallahassee.

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HEADED THIS WAY— “Ian strengthen into a hurricane, heads towards Cuba, Florida,” by The Associated Press’ Cristiana Mesquita: “Forecasters say Tropical Storm Ian has strengthened into a hurricane as it moves closer to Cuba on a track expected to take it to Florida in the coming days. Ian was forecast to intensify rapidly and become a major hurricane as soon as late Monday.”

GETTING READY — DeSantis mobilizes national guard ahead of likely hurricane, by POLITICO’s Arek Sarkissian: Gov. Ron DeSantis has already declared a state of emergency ahead of Ian. On Saturday, President Joe Biden announced an emergency for Florida, which allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to begin coordinating efforts before the storm. Although DeSantis routinely criticizes Biden and his administration over issues like immigration, education and Covid-19 mandates, the Florida governor on Sunday thanked the White House for its assistance. DeSantis added that he’s been in contact with FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell since Friday. “They stand by ready to help, so we appreciate that quick action,” DeSantis said.

— “Puerto Ricans await aid, fret about post-hurricane recovery,” by The Associated Press’ Dánica Coto

— “NASA delays Artemis I launch due to Tropical Storm Ian, preparing for possible rollback,” by Florida Today’s Emre Kelly

CLEARED FOR TAKEOFF — Biden’s watchdog in the skies can’t ground Air DeSantis, by POLITICO’s Oriana Pawlyk: The company that Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis used to send dozens of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard operates charter flights under approvals granted by federal transportation regulators who have almost absolute power to regulate safety in the skies. But there’s probably little the Federal Aviation Administration can do to stop DeSantis from continuing the flights, people familiar with the agency’s legal authorities say — even though President Joe Biden and other Democrats have condemned the flights as cruel publicity stunts.

‘I CAN TAKE YOU WHERE YOU’RE GOING’ — “Mysteries, legal challenges follow Gov. Ron DeSantis’s migrant flights,” by Washington Post’s Beth Reinhard, Maria Saccheti and Molly Hennessy-Fiske: “Perla never gave migrants her last name. But according to the migrants, she was as persuasive as they were desperate. Speaking in English and Spanish, Jose said, she offered them a 90-day stay in a ‘sanctuary’ city that welcomes migrants. She said they had steady jobs for 50 people in fields such as cleaning and carpentry. ‘We had been living on the street for two days, and we were getting desperate,’ Estrella said of her encounter with Perla. When Jose met her outside the McDonald’s, he told her he needed to reach Philadelphia, where an aunt’s friend had offered to put him up. ‘I can take you where you’re going,’ he said Perla told him. ‘She was very nice. It looked like everything she was saying was true.’”

R.I.P. — Pete Antonacci, legend of Florida politics dies, by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon: Pete Antonacci, who developed a reputation as a political fixer at the highest level of Florida government over his multi-decade career, died Friday evening. He was 74. There was an immediate outpouring of grief from Florida’s top elected officials, including Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who leaned on Antonacci in several major roles during his eight years as Florida governor, and Gov. Ron DeSantis, who also relied on Antonacci in key administration posts, including most recently as head of the newly created Office of Elections Crimes and Security.

THE DESANTIS WAY“A partisan ‘coup’ or ‘bold action’? How DeSantis keeps suspending elected officials not charged with crimes,” by South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Anthony Man: “Gov. Ron DeSantis has pursued an expansive view of his executive authority, ordering high-profile removals of local elected officials who haven’t been charged with crimes. Governors routinely have used their power under the Florida Constitution to suspend elected officials from office — when they’ve been charged with crimes. Though there is precedent for the DeSantis approach of removing elected officials who haven’t been criminally charged — including controversial, high-profile suspensions of two successive Broward supervisors of elections — it had been highly unusual.”

MAGIC 8 BALL SAYS— “Will Gov. DeSantis get deposed and questioned in the witness stand?” by Tampa Bay Times Sue Carlton: “But Republican former Florida Senate president Don Gaetz said [Gov. Ron] DeSantis could be different: ‘The usual approach is to avoid having a high-profile business or political leader have to testify and therefore be exposed to all sorts of questions that they may or may not be prepared for,’ he said. ‘But this governor is someone who rides to the sound of the guns.’ The trial will focus on DeSantis’ surprise Aug. 4 order removing Hillsborough County’s twice-elected state attorney from office. He accused [Andrew] Warren of refusing to enforce laws involving abortion, transgender healthcare and certain low-level nonviolent crimes.”

OVERVIEW— “How Democrats gave Ron DeSantis a pass,” by Time’s Molly Ball: “The political world is not so convinced. While [Gov. Ron] DeSantis dominates the news, his reelection this year has been all but taken for granted, and [Charlie] Crist, a former Republican governor and two-time statewide loser, has been all but ignored. To most political observers in both parties, the race is barely a speedbump as DeSantis steamrolls to national prominence. Amid the daily drumbeat of speculation about DeSantis vs. former President Donald Trump, his constituent and frenemy, DeSantis vs. Crist merits barely a mention.”

BY THE NUMBERS — Here’s the breakdown for the most recently filed fundraising totals in the governor’s race: Gov. Ron DeSantis raised more than $3.09 million during the period from Sept. 10 to Sept. 16, while Charlie Crist raised more than $1.99 million. The totals include money raised for campaign accounts and for political committees controlled by the candidates.

Following the money — The weekly total for DeSantis includes nearly $118,000 in public matching money, while Crist received more than $277,000 in taxpayer support. DeSantis’s largest donation was $250,000 from McCormick Drive LLC. Crist got significant support from political committees associated with unions. The NEA Fund for Children and Public Education donated $250,000 while a committee associated with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees donated $100,000.

In the bank — DeSantis has nearly $116 million unspent, according to state reports (which don’t reflect any future planned expenditures) while Crist has more than $5.2 million.

FOR YOUR RADAR— “‘I put my heart and soul into this job.’ Supervisor Barton responds to criticism of office,” by The Gainesville Sun’s Andrew Caplan: “[Kim] Barton, 59, has taken the heat for a law enforcement investigation into voter drives at the county jail that resulted in at least 10 inmates being charged, along with a School Board member’s removal from office that resulted in a lawsuit involving Barton’s office — all the while dealing with redistricting for Alachua County and city of Gainesville. The office has still had to carry out multiple elections, including an unexpected special election, and saw turnover from key election employees in that time.”

— “Democrats in Florida seek to win over Latinos on gun control,” by The Associated Press’ Adriana Gomez Licon

— “DeSantis re-election campaign focuses on voters in Florida Republican base,” by Wall Street Journal’s Arian Campo-Flores and Alex Leary

REACTION — “Some Republicans feel uneasy about DeSantis migrant strategy,” by The Hill’s Alexander Bolton: “One Senate Republican critic who requested anonymity to comment candidly on DeSantis’s Martha’s Vineyard gambit said it shows how much politics has changed since then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R) made his brand ‘compassionate conservativism’ before the 2000 election. ‘It plays well to the base, but I just think of the humanity of it,’ said the GOP senator. ‘It fires up a certain set of voters, but it turns another set of voters off. The immediate media focus is on the shipping of people,’ added the senator, referring to the critical media coverage of DeSantis and other Republican governors such as Texas Gov. Greg Abbot and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who have sent migrants to Chicago and Washington, D.C.”

‘I MADE HIM’ — “Trump and DeSantis: Once allies, now in simmering rivalry with 2024 nearing,” by Washington Post’s Hannah Knowles and Josh Dawsey: “The former president tracks [Gov. Ron] DeSantis’s public appearances and polling numbers, according to his advisers who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to share private conversations. He has also soured on DeSantis, repeatedly criticizing him and telling advisers: ‘I made him.’ ‘He’s ungrateful,’ Trump has said, according to two people close to him. ‘I knew him from watching Fox, and he’d done a good job about me and other things. He’s an Ivy League baseball player,’ Trump has said, explaining his 2018 endorsement, according to a person who has visited his Mar-a-Lago Club and heard him talk about DeSantis. ‘I don’t understand what happened here. I don’t understand why he doesn’t appreciate me more.’”

National security risk review of material Trump kept at Mar-a-Lago resumes after appeals court ruling, by POLITICO’s Andrew Desiderio

— “Donald Trump privately slammed Ron DeSantis, calling him ‘fat,’ ‘phony,’ and ‘whiny’: Book,” by Insider’s Cheryl Teh

COMING TO A CLOSE — Charges unlikely against Gaetz in federal sex-trafficking probe, by POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein and Matt Dixon: The federal investigation into Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz’s alleged sexual encounters with teenage girls is winding down and no charges are expected to be filed against the firebrand Republican congressman, a person familiar with the probe said Friday. Federal prosecutors and the FBI began investigating Gaetz in late 2020 during the Trump administration over potential sex trafficking crimes related to allegations he’d paid women for sex and traveled overseas on at least one occasion to parties attended by teenagers who were not yet 18.

TRENDLINE  — “The push for COVID boosters is on in South Florida — but the uptake is slow,” by South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Cindy Krischer Goodman: “The fall season is approaching, COVID cases are projected to tick up again, and the uptake for the new booster is strikingly slow. South Florida hospital leaders are concerned. So far, only about 37,000 of Florida’s 20 million eligible residents have received the new bivalent booster shot designed to target the omicron subvariants that have dominated caseloads in Florida in 2022, according to a state health report released Friday.”

THE VIEW FROM TEXAS— “The megastate G.O.P. rivalry between Abbott and DeSantis,” by The New York Times’ Michael C. Bender and J. David Goodman: “Publicly, [Gov. Greg] Abbott has not criticized [Gov. Ron] DeSantis’s migrant flights from his state. ‘Every state that wants to help, I’m happy for it,’ said Dave Carney, Mr. Abbott’s top campaign strategist. But privately, the Florida governor’s gambit stung Mr. Abbott’s team. No one in the Texas governor’s office was given a heads-up that Mr. DeSantis planned to round up migrants in San Antonio, according to people familiar with the matter.”

HMM — “How Paul LePage, running to lead Maine, benefited from Florida tax breaks,” by The New York Times’ Alyce McFadden and Michael C. Bender: “Making a comeback attempt now against his successor, Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, Mr. LePage is focusing heavily in his campaign on a push to phase out Maine’s income tax. He argues that the change is needed to keep wealthy residents from moving to Florida for just long enough each year to take advantage of the Sunshine State’s tax breaks.”

Homestead exemption — “But Mr. LePage and his wife, Ann LePage, who have owned property in Florida for over a decade, have themselves benefited from that state’s tax laws while living in the Maine governor’s mansion, and again as he campaigns to return to the job. From 2009 to 2015, and also from 2018 through the end of this year, the couple received property tax breaks reserved for permanent Florida residents, public records show.”

TO COURT — “From confederate monuments, Jacksonville lawsuit morphs to also challenge 5 county names,” by Florida Times-Union’s Steve Patterson: “A lawsuit in Jacksonville over using tax money to maintain tributes to the Confederacy has expanded to challenge the names of five Florida counties whose namesakes were Confederates. ‘I’m swinging for the fences,’ civil rights activist Earl Johnson Jr. told a reporter after he filed an amended complaint this week that also claims additional grounds to hold that spending taxes to honor Confederates violates federal law. … But by asking for ‘such other and further relief as this court deems necessary,’ the suit set the stage for efforts to rename Baker, Bradford, Hendry, Lee and Pasco counties, all named for men who served the pro-slavery government that lost the Civil War.”

— “Gainesville officials, activists react to vandalism of Pride Center of North Central Florida,” by The Gainesville Sun’s Andrew Caplan

— “Even as storm Ian approaches, Cuba focuses on controversial referendum on gay marriage,” by El Nuevo Herald’s Nora Gámez Torres

— “As record home prices eased this summer in South Florida, is the market closer to normal?” by South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Amber Bonefont

— “FPL wants to pass tax savings to customers, but bills will remain higher this year,” by News Service of Florida’s Jim Saunders

— “Florida students study Tom Brady’s controversial fitness program,” by Washington Post’s Donna St. George: “But [Tom] Brady’s system is not without its doubters in the scientific community. When he published his book in 2017 laying out his TB12 program, skeptics questioned the science behind some of his claims and the program’s obvious connection to product sales. The TB12 website now sells supplements, protein powder, vibrating spheres and foam rollers, and branded hoodies, T-shirts and hats. Reviewers knocked Brady for saying he doesn’t get sunburns anymore because he drinks so much water, a claim that was widely dismissed.”

BIRTHDAYS: Brittany Davis Wise, interim assistant vice president for communications for the University of Florida … Jessica Bakeman, senior editor for news at WLRN … Former Daytona Beach News-Journal columnist Pamela Hasterok 



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