Good Tuesday morning.
In your mind — Well, Democrats across the nation keep paying a lot of attention to Florida and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Coast to coast — From the White House to California — and now New York City — DeSantis and Republicans in this state continue to attract outsized attention from Democrats, which of course just builds up even more support from GOP base voters eager to embrace someone who dishes it out and upsets the libs.
Engagement — It’s been a two-way street, of course. DeSantis and his team have done their fair share of trolling (his reelection campaign recently filmed a video talking with beach-goers from New York complaining about their home and lauding DeSantis) and on Monday recently minted New York City Mayor Eric Adams returned the favor.
Taking it to the streets — Adams announced that he had partnered with private companies to erect digital billboards in Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach for eight weeks, from April 4 through May 29. The billboards, along with social media, will include phrases like “People say a lot of ridiculous things in New York. ‘Don’t Say Gay,’ isn’t one of them.”
Context — POLITICO’s New York team pointed out that Adams recently angered local LGBTQ advocates by appointing people with histories of making anti-gay remarks to senior positions in his administration. So this whole effort may be about helping the mayor just as much as hurting the governor.
Moving ahead — The bottom line, of course, is that these types of acts are likely to only escalate in an ever-sharpening campaign year. But a takedown from the White House press room or billboards is unlikely to seriously affect DeSantis’ standing and just leads him to getting more time (and love) on conservative media outlets. At this point, it would take a sustained expensive air campaign to affect the governor’s overall position and so far no Democratic group or individual is committing the type of resources necessary.
— WHERE’S RON? — Nothing official announced for Gov. DeSantis.
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BRONX CHEER — “NYC mayor uses ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law to recruit LGBTQ Floridians with billboard campaign,” by POLITICO’s Deanna Garcia: New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced the placement of billboards denouncing the “Don’t Say Gay” law in five major Florida cities to bring state residents opposed to the legislation to New York City. “This political showmanship of attempting to demonize a particular group or community is unacceptable and we are going to loudly show our support and say to those living in Florida, ‘Listen, we want you here in New York,’” Adams said at a City Hall press conference Monday.
RESPONSE — “New York City ad campaign makes appeal to Floridians who oppose ‘don’t say gay’ bill,” by Miami Herald’s Ana Ceballos: “[Gov. Ron] DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw, scoffed when asked about [Mayor Eric] Adams’ efforts to recruit Florida residents. ‘Thousands of New Yorkers have moved to Florida since the pandemic began, and I doubt many will leave Florida because they’re so upset about the lack of classroom instruction on gender theory and sexuality for children in grades K-3,’ Pushaw said in a statement Monday afternoon.”
‘GAME CHANGER’ — “DeSantis deploys coveted endorsement to boost his political influence,” by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon: GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis is increasingly using his clout with Republican voters to elevate political allies throughout the state, marking the first real effort to build a political network by a governor with a notoriously small inner circle. DeSantis has already used one endorsement to scuttle the candidacy of a state lawmaker seeking a Florida Senate seat who likely would have had the backing of his own party’s leadership. The Republican governor is also sending signals he could endorse in two other races where incumbent Republican state representatives, who have the support of state Senate GOP leadership, are running.
Next up? — Another potential target for DeSantis’ involvement is the Treasure Coast-based Florida Senate seat sought by state Rep. Erin Grall, a Vero Beach Republican leaving the House after three terms to run for Senate. There is increasing discussion within the Capitol about DeSantis backing a challenger to Grall, who is loyal to Senate leadership. Grall did not respond to a request seeking comment.
CAMPAIGN ROUNDUP — Rep. Charlie Crist raised more than $1 million in March, his campaign for governor announced on Tuesday. Crist is the first Democrat to announce raising that much money in a single month. The campaign has raised more than $8 million between his main campaign account and his political committee and has more than $5.3 million on hand … Democrat Nikki Fried’s campaign for governor said Tuesday that it will report raising just under $440,000 for the month of March, her second-best fundraising month since she jumped into the race last year. The campaign also recently announced it had raised more than $1 million through online donations … Rep. Michael Waltz is endorsing Senate President Wilton Simpson for agriculture commissioner … Crist’s campaign has added Maurizio Passariello as Hispanic media director and Susan Windmiller as senior adviser for women’s outreach. Passariello most recently worked as Hispanic media director for the Florida Democratic Party, while Windmiller, who previously oversaw the Miami-Dade Police Department’s intergovernmental affairs, is a past president of the League of Women Voters in Dade County.
‘THIS IS MY RACE TO RUN’ — “Top Florida Democrats remain confident even amid Biden’s low approval ratings,” by Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Zac Anderson: “Florida Democrats face the tough task of trying to unseat two of the nation’s best-known politicians — Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Ron DeSantis — during a midterm election cycle that presents considerable headwinds because of President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings. But on Sunday night before nearly 700 Democratic faithful in Sarasota, the party’s leading statewide U.S. Senate and gubernatorial candidates offered a positive outlook and exuded confidence that they could be victorious in November.”
The R word — “Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Val Demings, a former Orlando police chief, highlighted her modest background, noting her mother cleaned houses, her father was a janitor and she was the first in her family to go to college. She never mentioned Rubio by name, instead focusing on her support of affordable health care, a strong public education system, environmental protection and safeguarding voting rights.”
MAKING IT OFFICIAL — Army veteran Chuck Nadd — as expected — jumped into the race for agriculture commissioner on Monday, setting up a potentially bruising Republican primary against Senate President Wilton Simpson. Nadd is a former Black Hawk pilot whose Florida homecoming from Afghanistan was detailed in a well-known Super Bowl ad from Budweiser. In his announcement, Nadd proclaimed himself a “Ron DeSantis Republican” who would stand up to corporate interests in Tallahassee. Simpson’s campaign declined to comment on Nadd’s entry into the race.
— “Charlie Crist bashes Gov. DeSantis’ inaction on property insurance,” by Florida Politics’ Gray Rohrer
BECAUSE WE CAN — “Florida Republican pledges to make gender transition-related medical care for minors felony child abuse,” by POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury: A Florida state House Republican on Monday pledged to introduce legislation to criminalize gender-affirming care for minors throughout the state, a proposal similar to a measure backed by Arkansas Republicans last year that was condemned by LGBTQ rights advocates. State Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay), who recently served as the House’s K-12 budget chief, said he wants to “shepherd legislation” in 2023 that would create a “felony child abuse” penalty for doctors who provide surgery or prescribe drugs that aid in the “gender assignment” of youth in Florida. He also proposed that doctors lose their medical license.
CARVE OUT — “Florida charter schools mostly exempt from 2022 education laws. Here’s why,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Jeffrey S. Solochek: “The approximately 340,000 children attending charter schools do not appear to be affected by the law. That’s because it applies to the Florida Statutes chapter relating to district school board powers, a section from which charter schools are exempted. Some people have suggested the measure will impact charters at least somewhat because the schools are subject to statutes dealing with student health and welfare. Beyond that, a paragraph dealing with notification of parents about changes in service refers to the ‘parents’ bill of rights’ chapter, which does include charters. But the sponsor, Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, has stated it was not his intent to hold charters accountable to the new law.”
END OF AN ERA — “Mike Vasilinda, a fixture of Florida political reporting, is retiring after nearly 50 years,” by News4Jax’s Scott Johnson: “Along the way, [Mike] Vasilinda has accumulated more knowledge in state government than maybe anybody in history, spending an estimated 3,700 to 4,000 days in legislative hearings, or 10 years of his life. Vasilinda turns 73 this year. Beyond that, Vasilinda estimates he’s produced around 10,000 TV news stories and conducted well over 50,000 interviews. He also has a tape and film library of Tallahassee news stories with around 10,000 tapes.”
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS — “DeSantis staff delayed release of Gaetz associate Halsey Beshears’ spending records,” by WKMG’s Mike DeForest: “In a move criticized by advocates of Florida’s open government laws, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ staff intervened in a public records request related to a former appointee who is reportedly connected to a federal sex trafficking investigation, documents obtained by News 6 show. The governor’s secondary ‘review’ of state spending records delayed the release of those documents for more than two months, records confirm. That delay may have violated Florida’s public records laws, according to some legal experts familiar with the matter.”
— “Top aide joins FDLE chief Swearingen in announcing he’s resigning,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Jeffrey Schweers
— “Union urges ignoring ‘intellectual freedom’ surveys,” by News Service of Florida’s Ryan Dailey
— “Gov. DeSantis accuses Joe Biden of breaking oath over Title 42 immigration policy,” by Florida Politics’ Renzo Downey
FLORIDA SENATORS PUT IT ON THE BOARD — The state’s two Republican senators — Marco Rubio and Rick Scott — made their opposition to the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for the U.S. Supreme Court official on Monday evening. Both were on the losing end of a vote sending Jackson’s nomination to the full Senate after the Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocked.
Never in doubt — The no votes from both senators were not a surprise despite Jackson growing up in Miami. But Rubio, who is running for reelection this year, did put out a statement where he explained his opposition: “Judge Jackson’s story is inspiring, but we have serious disagreements on the Constitution and the proper role of the Supreme Court. I do not support nominees who believe the job of the Supreme Court is to make policy rather than apply the Constitution as written.”
HOW ABOUT THIS ONE? — “Judges asked to install Florida Senate-approved congressional map,” by POLITICO’s Gary Fineout: “Federal judges asked to wade into Florida’s redistricting mess should adopt a new map already passed by the Republican-controlled Senate, a lawyer representing Common Cause and others suing the state said in court on Monday. It was a significant request that adds more drama to an ongoing power struggle over whether Florida will adopt a new map that would bolster the Republican majority. The map that initially cleared the Senate had strong bipartisan support and would likely result in a 16-12 GOP majority.”
‘A LONG TIME COMING’ — “Parkland, Florida school shooter’s jury selection begins,” by The Associated Press’ Terry Spencer: “Jury selection in the deadliest U.S. mass shooting ever to go to trial began Monday with preliminary screening for the panel that will determine whether Nikolas Cruz will be put to death for murdering 17 students and staff members at a Parkland, Florida, high school. Eighteen members of the first panel of 60 prospective jurors survived the only question they were asked by Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer: Could they serve in a trial that is expected to last from June to September?”
DECISION — “Cruz jurors can visit bullet-riddled site at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, judge rules,” by Miami Herald’s David Ovalle: “The decision from Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer means the jury in [Nikolas] Cruz’s death-penalty case, which started on Monday, will eventually tour a crime scene where blood stains and bullet holes remain more than four years later. The building has been locked but kept largely intact since the massacre on Valentine’s Day of 2018. The jury visit will clear the way for the 1200 building — a horrible reminder of Florida’s deadliest school shooting — to be demolished by the school district.”
MOTION TIME — “Trump asks judge to recuse from racketeering suit against Hillary Clinton,” by POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein: Lawyers for former President Donald Trump are asking a federal judge appointed by President Bill Clinton to step aside from a suit Trump filed last month claiming that Hillary Clinton and her political allies engaged in a racketeering conspiracy to falsely accuse Trump of colluding with Russia to gain support in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Court records show U.S. District Court Judge Donald Middlebrooks was assigned to the suit on March 24, the same day Trump’s attorneys filed the case in the Southern District of Florida, where Trump currently resides.
DOWNLOAD INTERRUPTED — “Trump upset with the state of his new social media sites, eyes shakeup,” by POLITICO’s Meredith McGraw and Emily Birnbaum: Top executives from Former President Donald Trump’s social media venture, Truth Social, have departed the company as the site has struggled to gain traction with users. Three top executives quit Truth Social, including chief technology officer, Josh Adams and Billy Boozer, the head of the company’s product development, and chief legal officer, Lori Heyer-Bednar, according to two people familiar with the matter. Reuters first reported the departures of Adams and Boozer.
I’m not happy Bob — Trump has been upset with the state of his social media venture, Truth Social, and is eyeing major shake-ups to the company, including positions on the board of Truth Social’s parent company, Trump Media and Technology Group, according to one of those people familiar with the matter and a separate person as well.
DUMPSTER PILE — “Garbage war: How Broward’s trash-hauling industry has sparked an $81 million lawsuit,” by Sun Sentinel’s Lisa J. Huriash: “A fight over Broward County’s garbage-hauling business kicked off in court Monday — pitting business entrepreneur Ron Bergeron against corporate giant Waste Management. It’s the latest in a clash over which company would ultimately go on to serve many Broward residents. Arguments began Monday in court: Bergeron is suing the hauler for $81 million, saying he was ‘betrayed’ by his former business partners who went behind his back. He argued that without his consent, they sold their company back to Waste Management, returning a decades-long monopoly to the region that left higher prices for consumers.”
— “Former Pasco child protection investigator arrested, accused of filing false reports,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Anastasia Dawson
— “Miami feds seize $34 million of bitcoin in fraud case. It’s one of the largest seizures in U.S.,” by Miami Herald’s Jay Weaver
— “Judge rules against Florida Christian school that sought to pray before football game,” by News Service of Florida’s Jim Saunders
— “NASA hits new snag with Artemis test at KSC, could threaten Axiom mission,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Richard Tribou
BIRTHDAYS: Former Secretary of State Katherine Harris