Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.4.20

Before we dive into the latest from the campaign trail two weeks out from Election Day, we have several pieces of good news about good people in The Process we’d like to highlight.

We owe our friend Lindsey Perkins Zander belated happy birthday wishes, but more importantly, we owe her and Skylar a hearty congratulations about this:

More good news, this time from Suffolk County, where Yael and Elnatan Rudolph (of Converge GPS) are celebrating the birth of Baby Rudolph:

We’re really happy for our ol’ friend from the FSU days, Joel Silver. He and his wife Claudette are expecting!

Mazel tov to everyone!

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

Sometimes one tweet sums up the day — and in a humorous way:

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Positive coronavirus trends continue in Florida as Gov. DeSantis announces quicker test results” via Zac Anderson of The Palm Beach Post — Florida’s encouraging coronavirus trends continued Monday, with the number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital dipping slightly, deaths well below last week’s records and the positive test rate remaining in the single digits. DeSantis also announced progress Monday on the effort to decrease turnaround times for coronavirus test results, a problem that has plagued the state and hampered efforts to contain the virus. Gov. Ron DeSantis acknowledged that slow test results are “useless” for limiting the spread of the virus by asymptomatic people. The Governor said that two sites in South Florida that can perform 1,250 tests a day will now offer a type of test that can generate results in 15 minutes.

Florida reports fewer than 5,000 coronavirus cases Monday, 73 deaths” via Anastasia Dawson of the Tampa Bay Times — With Tropical Storm Isaias and yet another record-breaking week of coronavirus deaths now in Florida’s rearview mirror, the state reported a second straight day of lower infections. On Monday, the Florida Department of Health reported 4,752 people had tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 491,884. That’s the lowest number of daily infections reported since mid-June, and roughly half the average number of new positive infections reported on a daily basis from last week. Two weeks ago, nearly 14 percent of those getting tested were found positive for the coronavirus and earlier this month, that figure hovered closer to 15 percent.  A driving factor behind the lower numbers Monday, Ron DeSantis said, is the sluggish turnaround time for test results from many of the state’s private labs.

Nikki Fried unveils new statewide initiative to combat COVID-19” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Nikki Fried unveiled a new consumer awareness campaign Monday designed to encourage Floridians to do their part and take simple actions against the COVID-19 pandemic. The awareness campaign, coined Be Smart Florida, will launch Monday afternoon and play on radio airwaves, social media and digital platforms. It will feature high-profile figures such as congress members and professional athletes from the Miami Heat and the Miami Dolphins. “We’ve never needed to be more united than right now, yet we’re divided by simple actions like wearing a mask and keeping our distance,” Fried said. “To reopen our state and economy safely, we must all be in this together and together we must all d0 the small things that make a big difference in slowing the spread of COVID-19.” SMART is an acronym for social distance, mask up, avoid crowds, remember to wash hands and throw away disposable items such as gloves and masks.

— “Nikki Fried launches a coronavirus message as Ron DeSantis retools” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Five test positive for COVID-19 after attending sheriffs meeting” via Ana Ceballos of News Service of Florida — Five people who attended a Florida Sheriffs Association meeting last week have tested positive for COVID-19, and top state elected officials who appeared at the meeting have received a warning about their potential exposure to the virus. The July 27 meeting at a Bonita Springs hotel brought together 60 people from across the state, including DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, Corrections Secretary Mark Inch, incoming House Speaker Chris Sprowls and sheriffs from various parts of Florida. The association “exceeded” social distancing guidelines at the event, Nanette Schimpf, a spokeswoman for the association, told The News Service of Florida on Monday.

Two more teens have died from COVID-19 related complications in Florida, data show” via Michelle Marchante and Jessica De Leon of the Miami Herald — Two more teenagers — a 16-year-old girl from Miami-Dade County and a 17-year-old boy from Manatee County — have died from COVID-related complications in Florida, according to health department data. Both deaths were added to Florida’s COVID-19 death toll on Monday, according to the Florida Department of Health. The state has now had seven children under age 18 confirmed to have died from the disease. The 17-year-old boy is the first known person under the age of 18 to have died from the novel coronavirus in Manatee County, according to the data. He did not have contact with anyone who had previously tested positive, but it is still unknown if the 16-year-old girl from Miami-Dade did, according to the health department.

The burden of a positive COVID-19 test result has some people ‘test shopping’ for a negative” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As the virus infects Floridians at a record pace, wait times at test sites and long turnarounds for results have people taking multiple tests at multiple sites. Desperate for an accurate diagnosis, they strategize, and even pay, to get faster test results. Why take multiple tests? Motivation varies: Sometimes a Floridian feels achy or has a cough and wants to know if they have the virus. Sometimes a curious test taker wants to know if he or she has the virus without symptoms. Then there are people who lack trust in a result. In other instances, someone previously positive is seeking a negative result — or two of them — to go back to work or emerge from self-isolation.

Florida business agency, not health departments, dealing with COVID-19 issues at restaurants” via Jim Thompson of the Northwest Florida Daily News — “12 servers. 15 kitchen staff. 3 hostesses. Not wearing masks. No social distancing.” Those words, written on lined yellow paper and attached to an email, are the notes from a telephone call placed to the Florida Department of Health’s COVID-19 hotline — 866-779-6121 or email COVID-19@flhealth.gov — regarding a local restaurant that an employee claimed was forcing staff members to work, even if they had tested positive for COVID-19. Those sorts of reports are typical of the way that concerns are being aired about how local restaurants are handling the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, part of the reason for those calls and emails likely is that people don’t know specifically where to turn to get action on COVID-19-related issues at restaurants.

— BACK TO SCHOOL? —

Pinellas teachers, district reach deal on school reopening conditions” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The Pinellas County School Board agreed in late July to push back its first day of classes by two weeks, in part to give the administration more time to prepare for a very different academic year. Another key piece of the puzzle fell into place days later, as the district completed a memorandum of understanding with its teachers union related to working conditions in the pandemic. The agreement tackles two issues that teachers have focused on in recent weeks: Safety precautions and teaching assignments. In the area of safety, the district agreed to provide “adequate” cleaning supplies for individual classrooms, but not to require teachers to be responsible for that cleaning. The district will adopt protocols for plant managers and maintenance staff to follow for keeping the buildings sanitized. The deal further states that school visits will be limited for at least the first nine weeks, with volunteer and mentoring activities to take place virtually. 

— CORONA LOCAL —

Northeast Florida adds 22 long-term care deaths in past week” via Clayton Freeman of The Florida Times-Union — Northeast Florida long-term care facilities have recorded 22 additional deaths from COVID-19 compared to last week’s report, the Florida Department of Health said in Monday’s weekly report on the coronavirus pandemic. The 22 deaths are the largest single-week increase in deaths for the area. The previous high was 11, added between May 22 and May 29. In all, the death toll at long-term care facilities across the area has now risen to 109, or more than 40 percent of the region’s COVID-19 fatalities. Park Ridge Nursing Center in Duval County recorded its seventh death to date from the coronavirus pandemic, the third-highest toll so far in the county. All seven deaths have appeared on the department’s list during the past month.

Jaguars place QB Gardner Minshew on reserve/COVID-19 list” via John Reid of The Florida Times-Union — Jaguars starting QB Minshew was placed on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list Sunday, becoming the 12th player on the team to make the list since the rookies reported July 21. Earlier Sunday, the Jaguars announced starting left tackle Jawaan Taylor, third-round defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton and reserve tight end Charles Jones had been removed from the list. However, Jones returned to the COVID-19 list by Sunday afternoon and was joined by running back Ryquell Armstead, WR Michael Walker, and safety Andrew Wingard and Minshew. Prior to Sunday’s new additions, the Jaguars had only three remaining on the list –  cornerback Parry Nickerson, offensive lineman Ryan Pope, undrafted rookie Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms. Rookie cornerbacks Josiah Scott and Luq Barcoo were activated from the list last week and both are now on the active roster.

To cut down turnaround time, two Miami sites to offer 15-minute COVID tests” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — DeSantis announced that starting Tuesday, state-run COVID-19 test sites at Marlins Park in Miami and Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens will offer 15-minute tests for people 65 and older as well as for people who have coronavirus symptoms. “We want to address the remaining challenges — the turnaround time for testing,” DeSantis said at a press conference at Broward Health’s corporate office in Fort Lauderdale Monday afternoon. DeSantis, joined by Department of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz, said the sites will administer 1,250 of the 15-minute tests per day. The tests — which measure a protein called an antigen that signals an immune response to the virus — first hit the market in May.

One hour apart, Florida corrections officer, his wife die of COVID-19” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — Jackson Correctional Institution officer Wayne Rogers is remembered by colleagues as a 30-year veteran officer who served with honor throughout his career. Those who loved him remember Rogers as a hard worker who cherished time spent with his family and riding his motorcycle with Lauri Rogers, his wife of 30 years. Rogers, 65, is the first state prison officer known to have died of COVID-19, the deadly respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, a disease raging through the Florida prison system. Rogers and his wife, 61, both contracted COVID-19 earlier last month. They died within an hour of each other on July 30 at Southeast Health, a hospital near the Florida border in Dothan, Alabama, close to where they lived.

New deaths in Leon and Madison; Marianna facility sees spike in fatal cases” via Casey Chapter of the Tallahassee Democrat — As Leon County gains 69 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 and sees another confirmed death, the Florida Department of Health also records a spike of COVID-19-related deaths in a Jackson County long-term care facility. The state health department reports Marianna Health and Rehabilitation Center has had 25 COVID-19 related deaths among residents, putting it in the top ten of facilities statewide with the most deaths. Officials at the city-run facility have not responded to multiple attempts for comment. DOH’s weekly report on COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities updated on Sunday. The new information comes in the wake of a spike in reported COVID-19 deaths attributed to Jackson County. Notable among the new cases are nine children and teens, all aged 18 or younger, including a baby listed as “zero” years old. 

Officer in Miami-Dade’s jail system dies of COVID as county tries to contain spread” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — A county correctional officer has died of COVID-19, the first known death of an employee of Miami-Dade’s detention system from the disease caused by the coronavirus. A spokesman for the county’s Corrections Department confirmed the death but provided no details, including where the officer worked. Miami-Dade’s police union first revealed the death Monday morning. “It’s the first one we know of,” said Steadman Stahl, president of the South Florida Police Benevolent Association. Stahl said the correctional officer was a 48-year-old male but did not provide information about the officer or where he worked.

Marlins’ Derek Jeter blames outbreak on ‘false sense of security’” via Steven Wine of The Associated Press — Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter says his players let up and paid a price. Jeter blames the team’s COVID-19 outbreak on a collective false sense of security that made the Marlins lax about social distancing and wearing masks. “The entire traveling party got a little too comfortable,” Jeter said Monday. Infected were 21 members of the traveling party, including at least 18 players. None is seriously ill, Jeter said, and he expects all to return this season. With more than half of the team sidelined, Jeter said the Marlins still can be competitive when their season resumes Tuesday at Baltimore after a hiatus of more than a week.

15-minute COVID-19 tests available in Miami area starting Tuesday” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Two drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites in Miami-Dade County are converting to 15-minute tests Tuesday, the latest move in the state’s effort to decrease result turnaround times. DeSantis, who announced the change during a Monday press conference, has lamented the fact that labs sometimes take more than a week to return test results. Under contract, commercial labs are supposed to return tests within 48 hours. Testing sites at Marlins Park in Miami and Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens are transitioning to 15-minute Abbott Laboratories “instant” tests, which will let individuals leave the lot with their results. “People want to know and want those results back,” the Governor said.

— MORE LOCAL —

Hillsborough County to extend mandatory mask order for another week” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group voted to extend the mandatory mask order for another week in a 5-3 vote on Monday. The EPG is made up of three County Commissioners, the Sheriff, Chairman of the School Board and mayors from Plant City, Tampa and Temple Terrace. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, Hillsborough County School District Chair Melissa Snively and Plant City Mayor Rick Lott dissented, voting against extending the mandatory mask order. Hillsborough County Commissioners Les Miller, Kimberly Overman and Sandra Murman, as well as Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Temple Terrace Acting Mayor Andy Ross voted to extend the mask order. This is possibly the last time the current EPG will meet, with the County Commission likely voting Wednesday to take over emergency policy.

Manatee County faces lawsuit from Palmetto pastor, Florida lawmaker over mask mandate” via Ryan Callihan of the Miami Herald — A Palmetto pastor and a state politician have sued Manatee County government over its mandatory mask mandate. And more than 100 people turned out Monday to support the anti-mask cause. The Rev. Joel Tillis and state Rep. Anthony Sabatini announced the lawsuit Monday morning outside the Manatee County Courthouse. Sabatini has filed 14 similar lawsuits against mask mandates throughout the state. The resolution, which county commissioners passed last week in a 4-3 vote, is “a radical infringement of the reasonable and legitimate expectation of privacy and facial autonomy in addition to the medical privacy by forcing them to wear masks for the majority of the day,” according to the lawsuit filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court Monday morning.

— CORONA NATION —

Getting a coronavirus vaccine in record time is hard. Distributing it to tens of millions may be equally daunting.” via Lena H. Sun of The Washington Post — With the Trump administration aiming to deliver 300 million doses of vaccine against the coronavirus as early as January, state officials and health experts say they remain in the dark about key details and, therefore, are inadequately prepared for what is expected to be the largest single vaccination campaign ever undertaken. Getting shots into the arms of millions of Americans is a massive undertaking, they say, requiring extraordinary coordination, planning and communication. But with only six months to the government’s target date for approving a vaccine, the administration has shared limited and often confusing information about its plans for distribution, making it difficult for overwhelmed state and local officials, including those who run immunization programs, to prepare.

Scientists worry about political influence over coronavirus vaccine project” via Sharon LaFraniere, Katie Thomas, Noah Weiland, Peter Baker and Annie Karni of The New York Times — Given that it typically takes years to develop a vaccine, the timetable for the initiative, called Operation Warp Speed, was incredibly ambitious. With tens of thousands dying and tens of millions out of work, the crisis demanded an all-out public-private response, with the government supplying billions of dollars to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, providing logistical support and cutting through red tape. It escaped no one that the proposed deadline also intersected nicely with President Trump’s need to curb the virus before the election in November. Even in a less politically charged environment, there would be a fraught debate about how much to accelerate the process of trials and approval. The longer that vaccines are tested before being released, the likelier they are to be safe and effective.

U.S. lacks plan for getting vaccine to communities of color devastated by virus” via Rachel Roubein and Sarah Owermohle of POLITICO — The United States is mounting the largest vaccination effort in its history, without a plan on how to reach racial and ethnic groups that have not only been devastated by the virus but are often skeptical about government outreach in their communities. For decades, communities of color have been underrepresented in clinical trials, faced greater barriers to getting vaccinated and harbored deeper distrust of a health care system that’s often overlooked or even harmed them. But now, the large-scale effort to defeat the virus depends not just on developing a safe and effective vaccine, but ensuring it reaches all corners of America. In the absence of a national strategy, some local groups aiding minority communities are beginning to draw up their own plans for engaging hard-to-reach patients.

How the pandemic defeated America” via Ed Yong of The Atlantic — In the first half of 2020, SARS‑CoV‑2 — the new coronavirus behind the disease COVID‑19 infected 10 million people around the world and killed about half a million. But few countries have been as severely hit as the United States, which has just 4% of the world’s population but a quarter of its confirmed COVID‑19 cases and deaths. The actual toll, though undoubtedly higher, is unknown, because the richest country in the world still lacks sufficient testing to accurately count its sick citizens. Despite ample warning, the U.S. squandered every possible opportunity to control the coronavirus. And despite its considerable advantages, immense resources, biomedical might, scientific expertise, it floundered.

Blood plasma might be the COVID-19 treatment we need” via Mark McClellan, Margaret Hamburg, Robert Califf and Scott Gottlieb of The Washington Post — Trump last week called on those who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate their blood plasma as a potential treatment for help stem the pandemic. While vaccine development continues, it’s important to advance every promising treatment option to improve the odds for those who become sick. Blood plasma has been used as a therapy for infectious diseases for a century, including against the flu in 1918 as well as SARS, Ebola, meningitis and measles. While it doesn’t work for all infections, the idea is to use one person’s successful defense system of antibodies to bolster the immune response of a newly infected person.

‘The biggest monster’ is spreading. And it’s not the coronavirus.” via Apoorva Mandavilli of The New York Times — Until this year, tuberculosis and its deadly allies, H.I.V. and malaria, were on the run. The toll from each disease over the previous decade was at its nadir in 2018, the last year for which data are available. Yet now, as the coronavirus pandemic spreads around the world, consuming global health resources, these perennially neglected adversaries are making a comeback. The lockdowns, particularly across parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America, have raised insurmountable barriers to patients who must travel to obtain diagnoses or drugs, according to interviews with more than two dozen public health officials, doctors and patients worldwide. Fear of the coronavirus and the shuttering of clinics have kept away many patients struggling with H.I.V., TB and malaria, while restrictions on air and sea travel have severely limited delivery of medications to the hardest-hit regions.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

Trump says he’s examining executive orders on stopping evictions, other issues if he can’t reach deal with Democrats” via Erica Werner and Jeff Stein of The Washington Post — Trump said Monday that he’s looking at steps he can take with executive orders on issues like stopping evictions, since he claimed Democrats aren’t serious about negotiating a new coronavirus relief bill. “A lot of people are going to be evicted but I’m going to stop it because I’ll do it myself if I have to,” Trump told reporters at an event at the White House. “I have a lot of powers with respect to executive orders and we’re looking at that very seriously right now.” He didn’t specify what any of those powers were, though. Trump’s comments came after The Washington Post reported that his administration was eyeing steps they could take unilaterally if no deal is reached on Capitol Hill. It’s unclear exactly what those might be, but the discussions are a reflection of officials’ increasingly pessimistic outlook for the talks with congressional Democrats.

States could see years of money woes, job losses from the COVID-19 recession” via James Salzer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — As Congress struggled last week to reach a deal on the latest coronavirus relief package, alarms were again being raised that the lack of federal aid could mean years of service cutbacks, layoffs and employee furloughs for state and local governments across the country. Georgia, which has avoided mass furloughs, has fared better than many other states. Nationally, about 1.5 million college, school and other government workers were laid off or furloughed during the early months of the COVID-19 recession, eclipsing the declines during the Great Recession, according to U.S. Department of Labor figures. Without federal assistance to fill holes in state and local budgets, some analysts have said spending cuts and tax increases that communities may need to continue providing services could delay the country’s recovery.

Publix’s sales soar by $2.5 billion because of coronavirus pandemic” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — At least one Central Florida company has been able to make money during the pandemic: Publix said Monday it has generated an estimated $2.5 billion more in sales because of coronavirus in the first half of the year. The Lakeland-based chain of more than 1,250 grocery stores reported that sales for the three months ending June 27 were $11.4 billion, up 21.8% from $9.3 billion in the same quarter last year. Comparable store sales were up 19.9%. Publix estimated sales in the second quarter increased about $1.5 billion because of the pandemic following a $1 billion boost during the first three months of the year. Net earnings for the second quarter were $1.4 billion, compared to $661.1 million last year.

Spirit Airlines, citing COVID-19, will furlough nearly 1,000 workers starting Oct. 1” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Spirit Airlines has told the state of Florida it intends to place nearly 1,000 pilots, flight attendants and other workers on temporary furloughs starting Oct. 1 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The discount airline, headquartered in Miramar, had signaled the possibility in July of large scale furloughs after citing steep declines in passenger traffic over the spring and summer. A total of 976 people are being affected by the decision. Airlines around the industry have warned they would likely become smaller toward the end of this year as business sharply dropped off as the nation’s economy collapsed over the summer.

— MORE CORONA — 

Outbreak hits Norway cruise ship, could spread along coast” via Jan M. Olsen of The Associated Press — A Norwegian cruise ship line halted all trips and apologized for procedural errors after an outbreak of coronavirus on one ship infected at least 5 passengers and 36 crew. Health authorities fear the ship could have infected dozens of towns and villages along Norway’s western coast. The 41 people on the MS Roald Amundsen who tested positive have been admitted to the University Hospital of North Norway in Tromsoe, north of the Arctic Circle, where the ship currently is docked. “A preliminary evaluation shows that there has been a failure in several of our internal procedures,” Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam said in a statement. He added the company that sails along Norway’s picturesque coast between Bergen in the south and Kirkenes in the north is “now in the process of a full review of all procedures, and all aspects of our own handling.”

As US milk sales rise amid pandemic, “Got milk?” ads return” via Dee-Ann Durbin of The Associated Press — Six years after the popular tagline was retired, “Got milk?” ads are back. A dairy industry-funded group is reviving the campaign, hoping to prolong the boost milk has gotten during the pandemic. U.S. milk sales have been in freefall for decades as choices grew and consumers turned to soda, juices and plant-based alternatives like soy milk. Dean Foods, the nation’s biggest milk producer, filed for bankruptcy protection in November. Borden Dairy, another major producer, followed with its own bankruptcy in January. But then came the coronavirus pandemic, and milk sales saw a sharp rise. Kids who were no longer having meals at school were drinking milk at home. Adults, no longer commuting, had time for a leisurely bowl of cereal. Many people were buying milk to bake and cook at home.

Goodbye, jeans. The pandemic is ushering in an era of comfort.” via Abha Bhattarai of The Washington Post — Jeans sales have been sluggish for five years, but the pandemic has taken a real toll. True Religion, Lucky Brand and G-Star RAW have all declared bankruptcy since April, while the parent company of Joe’s Jeans and Hudson Jeans filed for Chapter 11 protection in May. Levi’s this month posted a 62% drop in second-quarter revenue and announced plans to cut 700, or 15 percent, of its corporate workforce. Meanwhile, “athleisure” retailers like Lululemon are getting a lift from leggings and joggers sales for men and women even as overall receipts fell 17 percent last quarter. Gap, which owns Athleta, is reporting an uptick in sales of joggers, leggings and men’s sweatpants.

— SMOLDERING —

Investigation underway into dog demonstration involving Colin Kaepernick jersey allegedly at SEAL Museum” via Will Greenlee of the TC Palm — The U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command is investigating a reported incident said on social media to have happened at the National Navy SEAL Museum in which the target of a military dog demonstration wore a Colin Kaepernick jersey, according to the agency’s Twitter account. There are no apparent signs the facility in the videos is the SEAL Museum in St. Lucie County. The “target” wears a jersey of Kaepernick, who has been unsigned by NFL teams since 2017 after he protested police brutality against Black people and other social injustices by kneeling during the national anthem. “The inherent message of this video is completely inconsistent with the values and ethos of Naval Special Warfare and the U.S. Navy,” the post states.

There’s a ‘Back the Blue’ mural at police headquarters, but Tampa didn’t okay it” via Peter Talbot of the Tampa Bay Times — The city’s newest public art project appeared over the weekend outside Tampa Police Department headquarters after organizers worked for weeks to get approval from the city for a “Back the Blue” pro-police mural. The city didn’t approve it, but organizers armed with paint and orange cones created the mural anyway. Kristen Krutz, one of the organizers, helped spearhead the project along with others from Back the Blue Florida, an online community with more than 5,000 members. She said the mural is meant to show law enforcement personnel that they have support. At Tampa City Council meetings, people have called on officials to defund the Tampa Police Department, but Mayor Jane Castor has said she’s not on board with the idea. 

Black Lives Matter T-shirt at Jensen Beach High School sparks school district investigation” via Jon Santucci and Sommer Brugal of the TC Palm — School district officials are investigating whether a Black Lives Matter T-shirt that included Jensen Beach High School’s athletic logo violated district protocol. The district is investigating use of the Falcon logo, not the shirt’s message, said district spokesperson Jennifer DeShazo. “The district’s concern is that the shirts were branded with the school’s logo,” DeShazo said Monday. The district received comments from community members expressing concern, she said, and officials are looking into how the shirt came about. Jensen Beach High School football coach Tim Caffey, who is African American, posted a photo of the shirt on his Twitter account on June 29. Caffey declined to comment Monday.

Pensacola won’t allow any more street murals” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Pensacola will no longer issue permits for street murals. The city permitted a “Black Lives Matter” street mural on A Street in June and was working on issuing more permits for other murals. However, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson said during his weekly press conference Monday that the city has ended issuing street mural permits after at least one company wanted to paint advertising on the street. “We certainly thought that street murals had the positive opportunity to bring neighbors together, to bring community pride to a certain area and also to really slow down traffic,” Robinson said. An HVAC repair company had inquired about doing a street mural, and the city decided to end the program in early July.


— D.C. MATTERS —

White House will require staff to undergo randomized coronavirus testing” via Marisa Fernandez of Axios — Staff in the Executive Office of the President will be subject to mandatory coronavirus tests, in efforts to “protect the health and safety of the entire White House Complex.” Multiple people in the White House have tested positive for COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, including Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien last week. As part of our ongoing efforts to protect the health and safety of the entire White House Complex, randomized testing of Executive Office of the President staff, which has been ongoing for several months, will become mandatory rather than voluntary,” a White House official said Monday.

As Donald Trump downplays COVID-19 testing, White House begins requiring it” via Gabby Orr of POLITICO — As President Trump continues to downplay the need for increased COVID-19 testing across the country, White House officials were told they will now be subjected to random testing for the virus. According to an email sent to executive branch employees, which POLITICO obtained, the new policy will require “random mandatory COVID-19 testing” for officials working inside the White House complex. Limited exceptions are available to aides who have spent the last 30 days working remotely or are on previously approved leave. “Failure to report to testing will be considered a refusal to test,” the email stated.

Why Trump is focused on making Rubio happy” via Sabrina Rodriguez of POLITICO — When President Trump took office, he passed down one key instruction on how to handle Latin America: Make Rubio happy. Rubio, a Florida Republican and son of Cuban immigrants, had already built his political brand around vocal criticism of the regimes in Cuba and Venezuela, and to what he viewed as the Democrats’ policy of appeasement in the region. Trump didn’t have much to say about Latin America, but he knew two things: He wanted to keep immigrants and asylum-seekers out of the United States, and he had to win Florida in 2020. And he viewed staying in the good graces of Rubio, whose hard-line stances have made him popular among Cuban and Venezuelan exiles and their descendants in and around Miami, as key to the latter.

Rubio says government must spend bigger to beat the virus” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Rubio acknowledges the outsized role government plays in the new normal of the coronavirus, but says it won’t last forever, accepting a more activist vision of government than some other prominent Republicans might. “In an emergency such as the one we face right now government must play a role greater than it should in normal times,” Rubio tweeted Monday, introducing a video. Government has a role, Rubio asserted, including improving the testing process, and advancing a new round of Paycheck Protection Program funding. While Rubio acknowledges the national debt is indeed a concern, he says that “not doing enough right now would be even a bigger problem.”

House panel calls new postal chief to explain mail delays” via Matthew Daly of The Associated Press — The House Oversight Committee has invited the new postmaster general to appear at a hearing next month to examine operational changes to the U.S. Postal Service that are causing delays in mail deliveries across the country. The plan imposed by Louis DeJoy, a Republican fundraiser who took over the top job at the Postal Service in June, eliminates overtime for hundreds of thousands of postal workers and orders that mail be kept until the next day if postal distribution centers are running late. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat who chairs the Oversight panel, said the Sept. 17 hearing will focus on “the need for on-time mail delivery during the ongoing pandemic and upcoming election.”

Prosecutor seeking Donald Trump’s taxes cites probe of his business” via Larry Neumeister of The Associated Press — A New York City prosecutor fighting to get Trump’s tax returns told a judge he was justified in demanding them because of public reports of “extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization.” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. is seeking eight years of the Republican president’s personal and corporate tax records, but has disclosed little about what prompted him to request the records, other than part of the investigation related to payoffs to two women to keep them quiet about alleged affairs with Trump. Trump had a practice of sending financial statements to potential business partners and banks that inflated the worth of his projects by claiming they were bigger or more potentially lucrative than they actually were. Another article described congressional testimony by Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who said the president would overstate the value of his business interests to impress people or lenders, but then deflate the value of assets when trying to reduce his taxes.

— STATEWIDE —

DeSantis calls Tropical Storm Isaias a ‘trial run,’ warns of active hurricane season” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis described Tropical Storm Isaias’s near miss as a “good trial run” for what is forecasted to be an above normal 2020 hurricane season. “We did not get the major impact that we were prepared for, which is a very good thing, but we did get a good trial run for what will likely be a busy hurricane season,” DeSantis said. Speaking Monday alongside Moskowitz, the Governor said the offshore storm provided state leaders a chance to “beta-test” Florida’s new shelter strategy. The new strategy, birthed out of the COVID-19 pandemic, seeks to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus while also protecting Floridians during an emergency or a natural disaster. DeSantis also cited a shelter in Palm Beach, where evacuees who were infected with the novel coronavirus or who failed the temperature screening were redirected to a designated hotel. “It all proved to be very helpful,” he lauded.

As Isaias moves on from Florida, forecasters are watching another system” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — As Tropical Storm Isaias, which largely spared Florida, is expected to strengthen into a hurricane again as it nears the Carolinas, forecasters are also watching another system that could develop into a tropical depression later this week. The disturbance is a few hundred miles north of the northern Leeward Islands and while it is not well organized “environmental conditions could allow for some slow development during the next several days,” according to the National Hurricane Center’s 2 a.m. advisory. The hurricane center says it has a 40% chance of cyclone formation in the next two days and a 60% chance of formation in the next five days. It is currently not a threat to any land.

DeSantis administration can’t afford to mess up Hurricane Michael recovery contract” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — It’s been nearly two years since Hurricane Michael ravaged the Panhandle, and there’s still plenty of work to be done before the region fully recovers from the storm. A couple of months ago, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity announced a $735 million action plan for storm recovery, with a core focus being on infrastructure and housing. Proposals have flown in and now DEO is going through and evaluating them ahead of an Aug. 7 deadline. As DeSantis’ favorability ratings continue to tank amid the coronavirus pandemic, the eventual selection has major implications for the November elections and beyond. If they get it right, it has the potential to change the current narrative or continue the current slide by alienating President Donald Trump’s base in the bright red Panhandle.

Nomination of Renatha Francis to Supreme Court backed” via Dara Kam of News Service of Florida — A panel that nominates potential members of the Florida Supreme Court on Monday defended its choice to include Renatha Francis on a list of nine nominees sent to the Governor in January. Rep. Geraldine Thompson filed a lawsuit last month alleging that Francis, a Palm Beach County circuit judge, is unqualified to serve on the Supreme Court because she had not met a legal requirement of being a member of The Florida Bar for 10 years.In a response to Thompson’s lawsuit filed Monday, Daniel Nordby, the former chairman of the Judicial Nominating Commission, wrote that the court ruled in 2001 that a judge must satisfy the Florida Constitution’s eligibility requirements ”on the date of assuming office.”

USDA tested those mysterious seeds from China. Guess what it found?” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — They didn’t crack open and spew toxic gas. They didn’t grow into flesh-eating Venus flytraps. And beanstalks didn’t shoot into the sky. Those mysterious seeds that thousands of people across Florida and elsewhere found in their mailboxes in packages marked with Chinese characters were tested last week by the United States Department of Agriculture. Despite rumors that they could be agents of bioterrorism, it turns out they’re, well, run-of-the-mill seeds. Mustard, cabbage, morning glory, mint, sage, rosemary, lavender, hibiscus, and rose were among the varieties identified by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Medicaid enrollment expected to top 4.3 million” via Christine Sexton of News Service of Florida — Medicaid enrollment will balloon by more than 14% during the state’s current fiscal year, with economists predicting an average monthly enrollment of 4.36 million people. The economists, who met last week to discuss the enrollment trends amid the COVID-19 pandemic, did not estimate the costs associated with the surge in enrollment. They will meet Thursday to look at the financial impact. But Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew predicted last month that there would be a “gap, perhaps significant” between what lawmakers budgeted for Medicaid and the projected costs. Mayhew predicted that Medicaid providers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis will ask the Legislature for additional money to help offset costs for such needs as PPE.

Feds seized $2 billion at MIA, other airports for not declaring cash, report says” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — If you’re traveling with more than $10,000 in cash into or out of the the United States, you’d better declare the money or you’re likely to lose it. Especially if you’re flying through Miami International Airport — ranked right up there with New York’s JFK and Chicago’s O’Hare airports, according to a new report on federal seizures of funds from travelers who don’t fill out the right customs form. The Miami airport ranks among the top five in the United States for federal seizures of money from travelers who don’t legally declare it — a sum totaling $91.5 million at MIA between 2000 and 2016, according to the report by the Institute for Justice.

What Matt Dixon is reading — Ousted financial regulator Ron Rubin returns to D.C., prepares bid for local office” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Rubin, the former state banking regulator fired a year ago over sexual misconduct allegations, is running for office in November. But Rubin isn’t seeking office in Florida. He’s returned to Washington, D.C., and is positioning himself for a run to be Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, an office he held before he was the Florida Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner. Rubin picked up his nomination petition on Friday to run for a spot on Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2F, one of six such commissions in Washington’s 2nd ward. Candidates have until Wednesday at 5 p.m. to file their candidacy ahead of the Nov. 3 general election. Candidates must have lived in the district for 60 days before submitting their petition.

— 2020 —

Democrats in key states press for a more visible Joe Biden campaign” via Jenna Johnson and Holly Bailey of The Washington Post — In the states that will likely decide the presidential election, Trump is everywhere. Discussion of his presidency and the actions of his administration fill social media feeds, newscasts, letters-to-the-editor pages and socially distanced end-of-the-driveway conversations. For months, his campaign ads dominated the airwaves. His name decorates signs and flags hung on barns, boats and retirement community golf carts. That has not necessarily helped Trump, who trails Joe Biden in almost all key states. Yet to some of Biden’s supporters, Trump’s continuing dominance is a warning sign. They are lobbying for Biden to take a more aggressive stance, worried that despite his seeming advantage he has failed so far to persuade people to vote for him, not simply against Trump. “I want to see Democrats doing more to get one another excited for this race,” said Pennsylvania state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, whose Erie County district split its vote in 2016, siding with him and Trump. “I want some more movement up here; I want a presence up here. I think that’s really needed. It’s needed now more than ever.”

Donald Trump’s assault on mail voting threatens his reelection bid” via Christopher Cadelago and Zach Montellaro of POLITICO Florida — New private polling showed that Republicans have become overwhelmingly concerned about mail balloting, which Trump has claimed, without evidence, will lead to widespread voter fraud. A potentially decisive slice of Trump’s battleground-state base, 15 percent of Trump voters in Florida, 12 percent in Pennsylvania and 10 percent in Michigan, said that getting a ballot in the mail would make them less likely to vote in November. Trump won each of those states by a thin margin in 2016, and less than 1% of Biden voters said getting a ballot mailed to them would make them less likely to vote. Overall, 53%of voters in Florida and about half in Michigan and Pennsylvania expressed health concerns about casting their ballots in person and prefer voting by mail in November. “He’s sowing the seeds of his own downfall with his rhetoric around vote by mail,” said Katie Merrill, a Democratic strategist whose consulting firm, BaughmanMerrill.

Donald Trump campaign restarts TV advertising with spots slamming Joe Biden” via Quint Forgey of POLITICO —  Trump’s reelection campaign released two new advertisements Monday casting Biden as beholden to the left wing of the Democratic Party, deploying the 30-second spots in four early voting swing states. The media offensive comes after the president’s campaign went dark on television airwaves last week amid a reevaluation of its advertising strategy by Bill Stepien, Trump’s newly installed campaign manager. In one ad, titled “Takeover,” Biden is depicted alongside outspoken progressives Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. The other ad, called “Cards,” features a woman sitting silently on the edge of a bed, displaying a series of posters printed with sentences in block text.

Trump woos Florida mail voters with new anti-Biden ads as his campaign returns to TV” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — After hitting a brief pause on TV spending, Trump’s reelection campaign is back on air in Florida and several other early voting states, campaign manager Stepien said Monday. Stepien, in a call with reporters, said the campaign had returned to the airwaves with two new commercials in Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and Arizona — states that will collectively send out millions of mail ballots weeks before Nov. 3, Election Day. Florida’s election officials will send mail ballots to overseas and military voters on Sept. 19. Most mail ballots will be mailed between Sept. 24 and Oct. 1, though voters can request a mail ballot through the U.S. Postal Service until shortly before the election.

Trump’s rants about mail-in voting and the reality in Florida” via Steve Bosquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Disrupt. Distort. Distract. Trump continues to try to delegitimize the most important election in American history — an election that polls show he’s likely to lose. His latest reckless rants, at a White House briefing Thursday, are designed to plant the notion in the minds of conscientious U.S. citizens that the election is “a mess” because of voting by mail. In reality, supervisors are using social media to remind voters of built-in safeguards that protect everyone’s vote. That’s the Florida reality. But Trump continues to make a phony distinction between mail-in voting and absentee voting when they are the same thing. “We’re in favor of absentee, but it’s much different,” he said. Wrong.

As Trump resumes Florida ads, a blunt campaign urges young Black voters to vote against him” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A series of three new ads are going online in Florida and other key battleground states, aimed at encouraging young Black voters to turn out in this year’s election — to vote against Trump. Like many political ads, the spots use stark imagery to deliver their message. They come from the liberal super political action committee Priorities USA Action and the Color of Change PAC.  Also on Monday, the Trump campaign resumed advertising in Florida and several other key states. It went off the air last week to reassess its strategy. Priorities USA Action and the Color of Change PAC said their effort involves spending $3.4 million on digital platforms in Florida and other large states Trump narrowly won in 2016.

Joe Biden focuses on narrowing VP list, plans to interview finalists this week” via Mike Memoli, Kristen Welker and Carol E. Lee of NBC News — Biden spent the past weekend out of the public eye, changing scenery with a trip to his Rehoboth Beach getaway as he prepares to narrow his vice presidential short list ahead of one-on-one meetings with the finalists expected this week. For months, a tightknit circle of Biden’s most trusted advisers and lawyers have been hard at work assembling dossiers on the field of candidates to be the nation’s first female vice president. Now, with just two weeks to go until he formally accepts his party’s nomination, one of the most consequential political decisions he’ll ever make comes down to the final vetting team: Biden’s head, heart and gut. The final one-on-one meetings are seen as critical for Biden, who is looking to recreate with his choice the same kind of close, trusting bond he shared as vice president with Barack Obama.

South Carolina Congressman says Val Demings merits Joe Biden VP spot” via Antonio Fins of The Palm Beach Post — A key Biden supporter said Monday that U.S. Rep. Demings is a “tremendous” person and that she merits serious consideration for a spot on the Democratic ticket. South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn said he has spoken with Biden and his campaign about Demings. “Val Demings is a tremendous person. I’ve known her for a long time,” he said. “I’ve said that to the Vice President and some of his people. I think she is under serious consideration and she ought to be.” Demings, who represents a Central Florida district, is on Biden’s list of potential vice presidential nominees. If chosen, she would be the first Black woman to be nominated for the country’s second-highest office.

Voting by mail popular in pandemic, but no ‘panacea’” via the News Service of Florida — Floridians are flooding elections supervisors with requests for mail-in ballots as they seek a safer way to cast ballots amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but some experts warn that absentee voting is not a panacea. Research shows that Black, Hispanic and young voters are more likely to have their mail-in ballots rejected or received too late to be counted on Election Day. Voting by mail “is safe in a pandemic,” said Michael Herron, a Dartmouth College political science professor who has conducted extensive research on Florida elections. “That’s obviously a huge benefit. But it has some rigidities that don’t exist in in-person voting,” he said. “The voters have to be very, very attentive to issues of timeliness and signatures. Those just don’t exist in regular, in-person voting.”

— “Early voting begins in Central Florida as mail-in ballots steadily come in” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel

Other states join Florida voting rights battle — Nineteen states and Washington, D.C., signed onto a legal brief by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra supporting voting rights advocates in the long-running legal battle over felon voting rights restoration. As reported by Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida, the brief urges the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a May ruling that struck down the “fines and fees” provision of the state law governing voting rights restoration. “If you’ve successfully served your time, then you deserve to have a fair shot at participating in our democracy,” Becerra said in a written statement. “Bottom line: Your right to vote shouldn’t be determined by your net worth.”

Kanye West submits petitions to appear on Arkansas ballot” via The Associated Press — West on Monday filed signatures to appear on the Arkansas ballot this fall as an independent presidential candidate. Representatives of West submitted 1,723 signatures with the secretary of state’s office, which has 10 days to verify that he’s submitted the 1,000 signatures from registered voters required to appear on the Arkansas ballot. West, who once backed Republican President Donald Trump, announced last month that he had broken with Trump and would launch his own presidential bid. West has since submitted paperwork to appear on the ballot in neighboring Oklahoma. A formal complaint was filed in New Jersey last week challenging the signatures he submitted to appear on that state’s ballot.

— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —

CD 3 candidate Ryan Chamberlin will be a ‘red-meat conservative’ in DC” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Chamberlin is out with a new ad bashing Washington Democrats and the Republicans who “surrender to them.” The ad, “Fight,” is Chamberlin’s second in the crowded primary for Florida’s 3rd Congressional District. It opens with him reading an article about “Pelosi Socialism” and slamming down the newspaper in disgust. “What’s worse, socialists like Pelosi and AOC or the Republicans that surrender to them. We elect them and they spend their time looting taxpayers for lobbyists, bad-mouthing President Donald Trump, apologizing for our history,” Chamberlin says in the ad. Chamberlin doubled down on his criticism of so-called “weak-kneed Republicans” in a statement accompanying the ad.

Get me Roger Stone: Judson Sapp brings star power to CD 3 run” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Every advantage counts in a battle royale Republican primary, and in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, a candidate is betting that Roger Stone is the ticket. Judson Sapp, one of a group of hopefuls seeking to succeed retiring Rep. Ted Yoho, is bringing the convicted felon to the district for a meet and greet ahead of the August 18 primary. Stone, as the Associated Press notes, saw his sentence commuted just before he was to report to prison for lying to Congress. But the event promotion doesn’t dwell on that, taking the long view of Stone’s historic ties with the man in the White House. Per the event invitation, Stone is “a close friend and former advisor to President Trump.”

Casey Askar never sought VA rider on mortgages in Michigan or Florida” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Askar’s mortgage documents shows he never utilized a home loan guarantee available to veterans. Askar, a candidate for Congress in Florida’s 19th Congressional District, has yet to provide his discharge papers to Florida Politics more than two weeks after the outlet requested them. He touted his Marine service when he announced his candidacy on March 20. A boot camp graduation photo has featured prominently in campaign ads. But it doesn’t seem as if Askar utilized many of the benefits afforded to veterans though the years. Notably, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs helps veterans become homeowners through a home loan guarantee benefit. Askar’s campaign said he was enrolled in the Marines from 1988 to 1992. That would make Askar eligible for the benefit, so long as he served 24 continuous months or a full 181-day period of active duty. Yet, publicly available mortgage documents obtained by Florida Politics from home purchases in 1992, 1995, 1997 and 2019 in Michigan and Florida show Askar failed to mark a V.A. rider for any of the home purchases.

Jose Javier Rodriguez rolling up big cash-on-hand cushion” via Spencer Fordin of Florida Politics — Rodriguez has generated a gigantic advantage in both fundraising and cash on hand in his bid to maintain control of his seat in Florida’s Senate District 37. Rodriguez is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination, and he’s banked $435,259 and spent just $33,382 on his campaign. That leaves $401,887 in cash on hand. The incumbent’s campaign raised $5,657 between July 11 and July 17 and another $16,063 between July 18 and July 24. Rodriguez also has a political action committee, Initiative for Florida’s Future, that has raised $826,050 and spent $613,000, leaving $212,050 in cash on hand. Rodriguez, formerly a two-term Rep. in HD 112, was first elected to represent the SD 37 in 2016.

— “Florida doctors prescribe Rodney Long for HD 20” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

— “Florida doctors back Michele Rayner in HD 70” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

Poll shows Jenna Persons with nearly twice Roger Lolly’s support in HD 78” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A new poll shows Persons winning the GOP primary in House District 78 by nearly a two-to-one margin. A St. Pete Polls survey shows if the primary were held today, more than 40% of likely Republican voters would vote for Persons. Nearly 21% would pick local nonprofit director Roger Lolly, while just over 10% would choose pharmaceutical consultant Charlie Lynch. The poll, taken Aug. 1 and 2, shows Persons’ lead outside the 6.4% margin of error. With less than 29% of voters still undecided about two weeks from the primary and more than 63% of voters casting ballots by mail, there’s little time or room to turn this race around. Persons, the only woman in the race, does particularly well with female voters, with 43% on her side while 19% favor Lolly and 8% like Lynch. But almost 37% of male voters favor Persons as well, compared to 23% who would vote for Lolly and 15% for Lynch.

Mailer war between Donna Barcomb, Fiona McFarland spins HD 72 resumes into liabilities” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — House District 72 Republican candidates’ resumes get turned against them in competing negative mailers hitting mailboxes now. Barcomb’s support for tax hikes while on the Sarasota County Public Hospital Board provides fodder for negative pieces. Meanwhile, McFarland’s work for a controversial consulting firm drew a round of attacks as well. The two Sarasota Republicans face each other in the Aug. 18 primary. Each camp waived off criticism as opponents miscasting their experience as a detriment instead of an asset. For Barcomb, the attacks come in the form of grainy black-and-white photos and the label “career politician.”

Marie Woodson has cash advantage in HD 101 race” via Spencer Fordin of Florida Politics — Woodson may not have raised the most money in her race for House District 101, but she has emerged with a significant advantage in cash on hand with the primary rapidly approaching. Woodson, a former Miami-Dade County Public Administrator, has raised $93,200 and given her campaign a $5,000 loan. She has spent $38,274 so far, leaving $59,926 in the bank ahead of the Aug. 18 primary. Woodson will be contesting the Democratic primary against West Park Vice Mayor Brian Johnson and Pembroke Pines Mayor Ashira Mohammed. The trio of candidates and Republican Vincent Parlatore are running to replace Rep. Shevrin Jones, who was term limited in 2020 and is running for Senate. Over the campaign, Woodson has steadily churned out donations.

Early voting off to slow start as mail-in ballots dominate primary” via Hannah Morse of The Palm Beach Post — Amid the unforgiving post-tropical storm heat, Palm Beach County’s 18 early voting locations opened Monday without issue or delay, elections chief Wendy Sartory Link said. But the start of in-person voting for the August primary began with a whimper — especially compared with those whose ballots have been cast by mail. Nearly 1,100 Palm Beach County voters made their choices in a booth by 4 p.m., which doesn’t account for a potential post-work voting rush. By the same time Monday, more than 102,000 votes cast by mail were counted. “The (vote-by-mail) numbers are higher than ever,” said Link, who also is running for election. Of Palm Beach County’s registered 991,000 voters, more than 330,000 have requested vote-by-mail ballots, she said.

— DOWN BALLOT —

Broward clerk of courts race heats up headed into Aug. 18 primary” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The election for Broward Clerk of Courts is raising more eyebrows and headlines than any in recent memory — but that does not make the outcome predictable. Indeed, any outcome is possible, and the stakes are high. The Broward Clerk of Courts supervises roughly 800 employees, oversees an annual budget of $34 million, and earns $179,867 a year for work that typically avoids public criticism. Incumbent Brenda Forman up against two retired Broward Circuit judges — Paul Backman, who  is running hard-hitting, critical commercials on cable TV and has picked up a string of endorsements from unions representing police, firefighters, teachers and organized labor; and Mark Speiser, who jumped into the race in June to capitalize on insiders’ discontent with Forman and Backman.

Collier County Co. candidate arrested on cocaine charges” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Collier County Democratic Party called on Democrat John Jenkins to withdraw from a County Commission contest. “We were saddened to hear of the difficult times John Jenkins is going through,” said Annisa Karim, county chair. “We all deserve the space and privacy to deal with disruptive issues in our lives. It would be in his best interest, therefore, for Jenkins to withdraw from his run for County Commission in District 1.” The move came after Jenkins was arrested for possession of cocaine. He’s since been released on a $5,000 bond. Jenkins was booked into the Collier County Jail on Sunday. He was previously arrested in 2017 for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

South Florida ‘anti-corruption’ group attacks Rick Singh in Orange property appraiser race” via Steven Lemongello and Caroline Glenn of the Orlando Sentinel — A secretive group from South Florida is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars attacking beleaguered Singh, Orange County Property Appraiser, in advance of a heated Aug. 18 Democratic primary between himself and two challengers. In response, Singh’s campaign is spending tens of thousands itself, including on a Facebook ad that suggests the attacks on him are coming from some of the “big business and special interest groups” he’s tangled with over the years. He later specifically alleged Disney was behind the efforts. “I think Central Florida voters deserve to know who they are,” Singh said of the Florida Public Corruption Task Force. “They’re a shadowy [group] of dark money that’s come into Central Florida politics.‘’ But Rick Yabor, the chair of the group, said neither Disney nor any other tourism interests are funding the group’s campaign, but he would not say who was.

— TOP OPINION —

How the media could get the election story wrong” via Ben Smith of The New York Times — The coronavirus crisis means that states like Pennsylvania may be counting mail-in ballots for weeks, while President Donald Trump tweets false allegations about fraud. President Trump last Thursday again sought to call mail-in voting into question with false claims about fraud. If you want a glimpse of how this could play out in November, look to 2018, when Trump tweeted the suggestion, “Call for a new election?” when the Republican nominee for Senate in Arizona fell behind as mail ballots were counted. And the last barriers between American democracy and a deep political crisis may be television news. CNN and The Associated Press, among others, have devoted far more reporting resources than usual to informing audiences just how elections work and to lowering their expectations of quick results. NBC is doubling the size of the team that covers election security and misinformation.

— OPINIONS —

Leadership lacking in COVID-19 utility shut-offs” via Aliki Moncreif for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Power is not a luxury; it is a vital necessity of modern life. Floridians suffering from diabetes and certain cancers must have access to electricity in order to refrigerate their life-saving medicines. Those required to work and learn from home must have access to WiFi. Elderly Floridians must be able to cool their homes to avoid deadly heatstroke. While other states have passed moratoriums prohibiting utilities from disconnecting families from their power for non-payment, the Florida Public Service Commission and  DeSantis have allowed our utilities to take a voluntary approach to their billing and disconnection policies during the pandemic. As it stands, five months into the pandemic, we have zero guidelines and zero protection for Floridians in need.

Nutella from the jar, PJs at Publix and mullets? Pitfalls of a COVID-19 lifestyle” via Frank Cerabino of The Palm Beach Post — With the viral pandemic continuing to affect daily life for the sixth calendar month, we here at headquarters recognize that many of us have fallen into a malaise that has often resulted in a relaxed standard of grooming, hygiene, eating habits and appearance. If left unchecked much longer, this can be detrimental to our self-respect and overall mental and physical health. While some degradation in standards is acceptable, it cannot proceed indefinitely on its current trajectory. There needs to be limits to our new era of sloth before we metaphorically throw in the towel to our former lives in a permanent way.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Over the past week, Florida set another record for COVID-19, as the Department of Health reported 1,230 deaths, smashing the old record of 872 fatalities in the previous week.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— At times like this, we could all use a bit of a distraction. How about the SpaceX crew returning to earth off the coast of Pensacola?

— And if that’s not distracting enough, what about that tropical system brushing the Atlantic Coast? COVID-19 complication meant not many evacuations.

— But in the end, all roads lead back to #coronavirus. State prisons were hard-hit during the pandemic and now — after visiting a prison in Lake City — the secretary of the Department of Corrections has tested positive for the virus.

— We look at the Blue Gala hosted by Miami-Dade Democrats, as they prepare for the August primary and the November election.

— Since Miami-Dade is also the epicenter of the virus in Florida, the Democrat’s gala was virtual. That includes the appearance of Biden.

— Checking-in with a Florida Man who crashed his golf cart. He blamed Trump.

To listen, click on the image below:

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

‘The Swamp’ looks at political reform through the eyes of an unlikely hero: Rep. Matt Gaetz” via Hank Stuever of The Washington Post — Aiming to untangle the story of Congress’s immobilizing dependence on PAC fundraising and lobbyist influence, “The Swamp” is watchable mainly for its willingness to hang around with the likes of 38-year-old Rep. Matt Gaetz and give him a fair and up-close chance to explain himself as a self-styled iconoclast. The “where to begin” aspect of fixing Washington is as much a hurdle for the film as it is for the representatives, while the history of partisan gridlock and big-money influence is more easily traced to the rise of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the 1994 midterm elections, when Republicans won a long-sought majority.

Gator Bowl, other bowl games, could rescue SEC vs. ACC regular-season rivalries” via Garry Smits of the Florida Times-Union — The savior of traditional SEC vs. ACC regular-season football rivalries that were eliminated from the 2020 schedule might be the bowl system. And the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl would likely jump at the chance to host one of those games — especially Florida vs. Florida State. “Our game matches an SEC vs. and ACC team, so we could host Florida vs. FSU and not worry about it being a regular-season re-match,” Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett said on Monday. “I absolutely would think our selection committee would love that game. It would be perfect for us.” For any bowls to be played, however, a season will have to have been completed, which isn’t guaranteed given the coronavirus pandemic.

Pandemic parody of `Goodnight Moon’ to be released in fall” via The Associated Press — A popular online spoof of the children’s favorite “Goodnight Moon,” reworked for the coronavirus, will be published by Penguin Random House this fall. The Penguin imprint Philomel Books announced Monday that “Good Morning Zoom,” written by Lindsay Rechler and illustrated by June Park, is scheduled for Oct. 6. Currently self-published, “Good Morning Zoom” takes Margaret Wise Brown’s beloved bedtime story and turns it into a narrative about Zoom, bread baking, homeschooling and other familiar parts of life during the pandemic. Rechler is a banking executive and mother of two who lives in Manhattan. Park is a graphic designer and illustrator who lives in Brooklyn. All author net proceeds will be donated to coronavirus relief charities.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to Rep. Tom Leek and our friends, Ryan Anderson, Marty Fiorentino, and Herbie Thiele. 

___

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.