Hello and welcome to Monday.
Incoming — Charlie Crist is notching a notable endorsement in his bid to become the Democratic nominee who will challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis this fall.
D.C. delivery — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is backing the three-term congressman, who is in a primary competing with Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and state Sen. Annette Taddeo.
On camera — In a campaign video shared first with Playbook, Pelosi says “I’ve worked with Charlie the past six years in Congress and I’ve seen him fight with Floridians every single day. He always puts people first. He’ll be a champion for women’s reproductive rights, create opportunities for small business owners, and always show empathy and compassion for our working families. It’s a stark contrast to the current governor.”
Primary colors — The Pelosi endorsement comes at a pivotal time as Fried has been ratcheting up her criticism of Crist, pouncing on his recent convoluted attempt to insist he’s “pro-life” even though Crist has been supportive of abortion rights after changing parties a decade ago. Fried has insisted that she is a “true” Democrat in contrast to Crist.
Speaking up — In a statement about the endorsement, Crist said “Speaker Pelosi is a beacon of Democratic values, and her leadership uplifts the voices of all Floridians that are ready to put divisive, inflammatory rhetoric behind us and truly get to work for the people.”
The downside — While Pelosi’s endorsement could aid Crist in his push to lock up the Democratic nomination in August, it also gives something for Republicans to hammer him about. DeSantis remains in positive territory in polls and has been constant in his criticism of President Joe Biden, the federal government and “lockdown Democrats.” The DeSantis campaign will probably have little hesitation in repeatedly linking Crist to Pelosi in the months to come.
— WHERE’S RON? — Nothing official announced for Gov. DeSantis
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‘THAT WOULD BE ZERO’ — “Rick Scott became the Senate GOP’s election general, then went to war,” by Washington Post’s Michael Schrer and Josh Dawsey: “But during the seven weeks of turmoil since [Sen. Rick] Scott dropped a provocative conservative policy bomb on an unsuspecting party — a plan that called for tax increases and expiration dates for all federal laws, including those establishing Social Security and Medicare — he has not once expressed regret. Instead, the former hospital chain CEO and two-term governor, the richest man in the Senate, argues that he owes his detractors nothing. ‘My whole life has been people telling me that, you know, you’re doing it the wrong way. You can’t, you shouldn’t be doing this,’ he said in a recent interview at NRSC headquarters. ‘I’ve been up here for three years. Do you know how many people have come to me and asked me, before they vote, what my opinion is on something and whether it’s good for my state? That would be zero.’”
WHAT’S IN YOUR WALLET? — “‘Making a lot of money’: DeSantis campaign taps red-hot Florida real estate industry,” by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon: When real estate investor Moshe Popack wanted to host a political fundraiser for Gov. Ron DeSantis, he spared no expense. He threw one of the most expensive donor events in Florida political history. Popack, chairman and CEO of YMP Real Estate Management, had DeSantis and a handful of top contributors to his 10,000-square-foot Miami Beach home in February, an event DeSantis’ political committee reported as a $200,000 non-monetary or in-kind contribution from Popack. That eye-popping number makes it the most expensive reported fundraiser from an individual — not a company or political organization — in at least the past decade, according to state campaign finance reports.
Always be closing — Popack does, however, have one thing in common with a new breed of DeSantis donors: He’s part of Florida’s red-hot real estate market. Over the past year, DeSantis and his aligned political committee have raised more than $7 million from real estate developers, investors and realtors, making that industry one of the governor’s biggest donor groups as he prepares to run for reelection.
VIEW FROM DOWN UNDER — “Meet Ron DeSantis, the Trump rival taking on ‘woke’ Disney in the culture wars,” by Sydney Morning Herald’s Farrah Tomazin: “Ron DeSantis wants to liberate Australia. It’s shortly after midday in Orlando, Florida, and the Republican governor – a Donald Trump disciple who is fast becoming Trump’s biggest presidential rival – is standing on a red and blue stage, soaking up the cheers of his hometown crowd.”
Letter time — “Now, DeSantis insists, countries like Australia are desperate to follow suit. ‘There are people who look to Florida as the citadel of freedom, who are chafing under authoritarian rule from all across the world,’ he tells the die-hard fans who have gathered for the opening day of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. ‘I recently got a letter from Samuel from Australia, and he said, quote: ‘There isn’t much hope right now here, and many of us are fearful of what our leaders have in store for us. I look to you and your great state of Florida for hope during this dark time. Thank you for standing up for us.’ ‘Had Florida not led the way,’ DeSantis adds, ‘this country could look like Canada or Australia.’”
— “Another Republican files to run in likely new Florida congressional seat,” by Tampa Bay Times
— “Another Slosberg may continue family political dynasty — starting with campaign to unseat state lawmaker Kelly Skidmore,” by Sun Sentinel’s Anthony Man
— “At USF roundtable, Charlie Crist talks of ‘intrusion’ by state government,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Divya Kumar
— “12 sex offenders in Leon County, 23 in Gadsden voted in 2020 general election, officials say,” by Tallahassee Democrat’s Christopher Cann
— “Aramis Ayala charges Ashley Moody is ignoring oversight role in redistricting,” by Florida Politics’ Scott Powers
SPECIAL SESSION PUSH — State Sen. Jeff Brandes’ push to bypass legislative leadership and force a special session this year on property insurance was always viewed as a longshot, but he is going to force a lot of legislators to take a public stance during a critical time. The St. Petersburg Republican got enough support to trigger an official poll of legislators by the Secretary of State’s office. The simple math is that it requires a three-fifths vote — a supermajority — for the session to be called.
Uphill — Similar efforts to use this unique device to trigger a special session have not succeeded. There was a divide between House and Senate Republicans over how to deal with property insurance during the regular session and it’s not clear if there is a willingness to deal with this issue right now. Gov. Ron DeSantis recently suggested this may not get resolved until after House Speaker Chris Sprowls is no longer in charge even though the property insurance market is teetering — a fact that could quickly have serious ramifications for the state’s real estate market.
The bite — It works like this: No insurance = no loans, no mortgages = a major part of the state’s economy sidelined. If the situation unravels — and if Florida gets hit by a major hurricane in the months ahead — it could suddenly change the positive political environment that DeSantis and Republicans enjoy. Some Republicans — including Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who helps regulates the insurance industry — have remained largely quiet as this crisis keeps getting worse. “You can treat me like the boy who cried wolf but at the end of the story the wolf comes, and the wolf is here,” Brandes told Playbook this weekend.
The tally — DeSantis for his part has already said he supports Brandes’ effort — and some Republicans have already voted yes in the first batch of votes released Friday evening. That count was 10-1 in the 40-member Senate and 32-2 in the 120-member House.
What happens next — Brandes may get the supermajority he needs in the state Senate — no small feat — but still fall short. “My hope is we get enough members who have the courage of their convictions and back of the people they represent to call a special session immediately,” Brandes said. But he added that if he can’t get enough legislators to act, he hopes DeSantis will “be ready to call it if this doesn’t pan out.”
BAD MATH? — “Florida education agency rejects math books it claims contain Critical Race Theory,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Leslie Postal: “Florida rejected 42 math textbooks publishers wanted to sell to the state’s public schools, claiming the books contained ‘critical race theory’ or other ‘prohibited topics’ and ‘unsolicited strategies,’ the Department of Education said Friday. A press release announcing the move did not say which textbooks — many meant for elementary schools — had been rejected for containing CRT, nor provide examples of the lessons the education department found objectionable.”
HMM — “DeSantis nominee for Florida wildlife commission was fined for manatee violation,” by Sun Sentinel’s David Fleshler: “A Coral Gables healthcare executive who had been fined for speeding in a boat in a manatee-protection zone was named this week to the Florida board in charge of protecting wildlife. Albert Maury, chief executive officer of Leon Medical Centers, which is a major Republican contributor, was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to the board of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.”
— “Sunshine Health Plan settles $9M+ fine for violating Medicaid contract,” by Florida Politics’ Christine Jordan Sexton
MARCHING FORWARD — “DeSantis takes over redistricting. Outcome could reshape Florida political landscape,” by Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas: “Assuming the governor signs the map legislators approve next week, the configuration will serve as the political boundaries in Florida for the next decade, unless a court ruling invalidates them — a process that could take years. ‘Gov. [Ron] DeSantis is clearly starting a war and firing a first shot,’ said Michael Li, an expert on redistricting law at the Brennan Center for Justice. “It’s hard to see how this doesn’t end up in court litigation. And, as with any war, once you’ve started, it’s hard to control what happens.”
— “Darryl Rouson offers alternative map ahead of special session,” by Florida Politics’ Jacob Ogles
PALM BEACH STORY — “Mar-a-Lago Machine: Trump as a modern day party boss,” by The New York Times’ Shane Goldmacher: “For 15 months, a parade of supplicants — senators, governors, congressional leaders and Republican strivers of all stripes — have made the trek to pledge their loyalty and pitch their candidacies. Some have hired Mr. Trump’s advisers, hoping to gain an edge in seeking his endorsement. Some have bought ads that ran only on Fox News in South Florida. Some bear gifts; others dish dirt. Almost everyone parrots his lie that the 2020 election was stolen. Working from a large wooden desk reminiscent of the one he used in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump has transformed Mar-a-Lago’s old bridal suite into a shadow G.O.P. headquarters, amassing more than $120 million — a war chest more than double that of the Republican National Committee itself.”
— “‘I’m a gambler’: Trump plunges into GOP primaries with risky picks,” by Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer
SANCTUARY — “South Florida Ukrainians, afflicted by the war back home, find solace in this Cooper City church,” by Miami Herald’s Syra Ortiz-Blanes: “As the golden domes of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Orthodox Church glistened in the evening sun, South Florida Ukrainians gathered in late March in the Cooper City sanctuary to remember the young victims of the Russian invasion of their homeland. Women, men and children dressed in yellow and blue, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Others donned traditional shirts embroidered in flower patterns. Long, thin candles burned in two large silver bowls by the church doors, where the priest and a group of worshippers led the memorial service for the children of Mariupol, the southeastern Ukraine city that has been besieged.”
— “‘We pray for peace:’ Russian churchgoers in Miami pained over war, family on both sides,” by Miami Herald’s Linda Robertson
JOLT — “Florida utilities submit plans to spend $24B on storm hardening,” by POLITICO’s Bruce Ritchie: Florida’s three largest electric utilities this week proposed spending more than $24 billion over 10 years — with much of it likely paid for by customers — on plans to harden their transmission systems against storms. Florida Power & Light Co., Duke Energy Florida and Tampa Electric Co. submitted the plans to the Public Service Commission on April 11 under 2019 legislation that allows utilities to charge customers separately for storm-hardening. FPL, the state’s largest utility with 5.7 million customers across 43 counties, proposes spending $14.9 billion through 2032, with more than half of that for hardening distribution lines.
IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL — “Disney, built on fairy tales and fantasy, confronts the real world,” by The New York Times’ Brooks Barnes: “In trying to offend no one, Disney had seemingly lost everyone. ‘The mission for the Disney brand has always been really clear: Do nothing that might upset or confuse the family audience,’ said Martin Kaplan, the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the University of Southern California and a former Walt Disney Studios executive. ‘Fun for all. Nothing objectionable. Let’s all be transformed by the magic wand. But we are so divided today, so revved up, that even Disney is having a hard time bringing us together.’”
CHARGES FILED — “TPD: Gay rights activist was murdered in his apartment, dumped in trash can outside,” by Tallahassee Democrat’s Jeff Burlew: “The man charged in the murder of Jorge Diaz Johnston allegedly got rid of his body by tossing it in a dumpster outside the apartment the two men shared and wheeling it down the street. That grisly detail was included in newly released search warrant affidavits that Tallahassee police filed in early January, after Diaz Johnston went missing and was found dead in a Jackson County landfill. It also contradicts previous accounts from law enforcement that the body was first dumped in an Okaloosa County landfill and hauled to Jackson County. Steven Yinger, a felon with a long history of burglary and theft convictions, was indicted Thursday on first-degree murder and other charges in the death of Diaz Johnston. Yinger, who allegedly strangled Diaz Johnston to death, is being held without bail in the Leon County Detention Facility.”
— “Florida Keys celebrate 40th anniversary of Conch Republic,” by The Associated Press
— “NOAA seeks person who impaled dolphin found dead in Florida,” by The Associated Press
— “Actor Dave Bautista opens tattoo marvel in Tampa,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Sharon Kennedy Wynne: “On busy Kennedy Boulevard across the street from the University of Tampa athletic fields, three tall black flags with “Tattoo” emblazoned on them flap in the wind outside of a nondescript building. It’s the only indication that inside the shop, one of the world’s most famous movie stars has realized his dream of bringing a tattoo clubhouse to life. Once inside, the name is revealed: DC Society Ink. Set in bold block letters against a charcoal brick wall with red backlighting, the logo looks like the cover of a comic book. It’s fitting, since the shop is the brainchild of Marvel actor Dave Bautista.”
BIRTHDAYS: The one and only Christine Sexton with Florida Politics … Derrick Brooks, EVP of Corporate and Community Business Development with Vinik Sports Group … Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany …. Evan Philipson, Florida political director for AIPAC