Hello and welcome to Thursday.
One night only— With a month left before the Aug. 23 primary, the two Democrats vying to challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis will hold their lone debate today. The clash is scheduled to be televised on Telemundo-owned stations and select NBC affiliates across the state this evening.
Out front— Rep. Charlie Crist — the former Republican governor who ultimately switched parties and tried unsuccessfully to knock off then-Gov. Rick Scott in 2014 — is the frontrunner in this race, outpacing Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in money, endorsements and in the handful of public polls.
The contender— Fried has responded in the last few weeks by hammering Crist over his convoluted record on abortion rights and his history as a Republican. She’s blasted him head on or, as she did in last weekend’s Leadership Blue Gala, jabbed with subtle digs such as how she is the only candidate who never “sucked up” to Donald Trump. (Crist and the former president were friends at one point.)
All the angles— Fried has been clamoring for more debates — and hasn’t gotten them. She also called on more stations this week to carry the one scheduled debate. Her campaign maintains she is building momentum especially as she hammers Crist over abortion and gun control but with fewer resources, they have not been able to get out a sustained television advertising campaign yet. Mail-in ballots are already heading out the door so the time to sway voters is coming to an end.
Looking for a breakout moment— Will this debate do it? History would tell you no, but there have been a couple of past Crist debates that had their share of drama, although they revolved around Crist’s love of having fans on stage with him when he talks. (The most famous incidentoccurred during the campaign against Scott, but I witnessed the first one during a 2006 GOP primary debate that almost got canceled because Crist’s opponent wanted his own fan.)
Punching til the end— What is not in question is that the Democratic primary has taken a sharp and bitter turn here at the end. Fried this past week said that Crist is a sure November loser who won’t get any national help if he’s the nominee. That’s false the Crist campaign retorted. She told rap pioneer Luther Luke Campbell that she wouldn’t be surprised if he switched back to Republican if he won the governor’s race. The campaign staffs of both candidates have really amped up their swipes at each other on social media, undercutting the idea that Democrats will be unified in challenging DeSantis.
The new vs. the traditional— Fried has dubbed her campaign “Something New” and what is true is that she has tried a different approach — mainly through social media — to build her campaign. It’s worked in building an online footprint. It hasn’t in raising money. Crist has used a methodical, old-school approach and is counting on reliable — and yes, older — Democrats to carry the day in a primary that is unlikely to break 20 percent turnout. That’s why its questionable a debate will alter that trajectory.
— WHERE’S RON? — Nothing official announced for Gov. DeSantis.
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TIME’S RUNNING OUT’— “Thursday night’s Democratic debate for governor could bring Fried-Crist fireworks,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Steven Lemongello: “The only scheduled debate between Democratic candidates for governor Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried on Thursday night comes amid an escalation of Fried’s attacks on her opponent, with just a month to go before the primary. Fried, the state agriculture commissioner, has been trailing U.S. Rep. Crist in most polls, although her campaign has touted an internal poll that showed her within striking distance. Despite her campaign’s claims that she would not go scorched earth on Crist, she has increasingly zeroed in on his time as the state’s Republican governor from 2007-11.”
WHERE POLITICS IS A PLEASURE— Publix heiress gives $50K to conservative education group Moms for Liberty PAC, by POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury: An emerging political committee operated in Florida by conservative parental rights advocacy group Moms for Liberty scored its first major donation last month — and it came from the Publix heiress who reportedly “had a strong role” in helping bankroll the Jan. 6 rally in Washington. Julie Fancelli, daughter of Publix Super Markets founder George Jenkins, donated $50,000 to Moms for Liberty in June, marking the first contribution to the group’s budding political action committee, campaign finance records show.
— “Charlie Crist follows Ron DeSantis’ lead, endorses School Board candidates,” by Florida Politics’ Renzo Downey
SHOW ME THE MONEY— “DeSantis holds closed door Utah fundraiser, takes home campaign haul,” by KUTV’s Brian Mullahy: “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis swept into downtown Salt Lake City and Deer Valley on Wednesday, and left with campaign cash from donors who paid thousands—even tens-of-thousands of dollars. The money will go to DeSantis’ re-election campaign in Florida, but the mountain fundraising is seen through the prism of a potential White House run, not a return trip to Tallahassee. ‘You think he’s in? (the presidential race)?’ 2News asked Amy Wolfe, who attended a luncheon at Deer Valley’s St. Regis Hotel. ‘Why else is he here?’ she replied.”
— “Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis set to speak at different Florida events amid growing rivalry,” by Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Zac Anderson
‘THAT’S WHERE THE VOTERS ARE’ — “Rubio test-drives a new attack on Demings: She’s on TikTok,” by NBC News’ Marc Caputo: “Rep. Val Demings is TikToking her way into fundraising gold. But Sen. Marco Rubio wants to define the Democrat as a tool of the Chinese Communist Party for doing so. In a new web ad launched Wednesday, Rubio, R-Fla., opened up a new front in his re-election campaign by contrasting his anti-communist bonafides with the Demings campaign’s prolific use of the wildly popular social media app, which is owned by a Chinese company. Last month’s revelations that private user data was accessed from China put TikTok on defense and intensified concerns about the company’s relationship with Beijing and the possibility of data mining.”
GOTV— ‘All hands on deck’: Florida Democrats push to boost Black voter turnout, by POLITICO’s Hannah Farrow: Florida Democrats, expecting a brutal midterm landscape, are working to boost turnout from Black voters, one of the few Florida voting blocs that continues to reliably support the party. Black voters comprise a relatively small slice of Florida’s electorate — about 13 percent of active voters — but they have outsized importance for Democrats. In 2018, for instance, exit polls showed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum received 86 percent of the Black vote compared to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 14 percent.
CAMPAIGN ROUNDUP— The Republican National Committee has just opened its third center in the state aimed at Hispanic outreach, this time in Tampa. The move comes at a time when Hispanic support for President Joe Biden is dropping. The RNC uses the community centers for press conferences with elected officials and the staffers at the centers do roundtables, seminars and charity drives with residents in the community. The other two are in Orlando and Doral.
… Voters have begun voting ahead of the Aug. 23 primary. Florida’s Division of Elections reported that as of Wednesday that nearly 2.49 million ballots have been mailed so far and that nearly 12,000 voters have already returned them.
— “Lis Smith says the path to trouncing Ron DeSantis is straight through right wing media,” by Vanity Fair’s Joe Hagan
— “CD 7 Democrat Al Krulick charges opponent Karen Green falsified credentials,” by Florida Politics’ Scott Powers
BEHIND THE CURTAIN — “Even a day after Jan. 6 Trump balked at condemning the violence,” by Washington Post’s Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey and Paul Kane: “The public could get its first glimpse of outtakes from that recording Thursday night, when the committee plans to offer a bold conclusion in its eighth hearing: Not only did Trump do nothing despite repeated entreaties by senior aides to help end the violence, but he sat back and enjoyed watching it. He reluctantly condemned it — in a three-minute speech the evening of Jan. 7 — only after the efforts to overturn the 2020 election had failed and after aides told him that members of his own Cabinet were discussing invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.”
— “In Harvard study of Jan. 6 rioters, top motivation is clear: Trump,” by NBC News’ Ben Collins, Ryan J. Reilly and Jacob Ward
RUBIO: GAY PEOPLE CARE MORE ABOUT GAS PRICES— Sen. Marco Rubio on Wednesday came out in firm opposition to congressional legislation that would write same-sex marriage into federal law, according to multiple reporters who caught up with Rubio in Washington, D.C. He told Insider’s Bryan Metzger “that bill’s not important. It’s a waste of time on a non issue” and “But I know plenty of gay people in Florida that are pissed off about gas prices.” Rubio told CNN’s Manu Raju that the legislation was a “stupid waste of time.”
Called for ruling to be reversed— Rubio’s answer has drawn attention to his statements in late 2015 — during his unsuccessful run for president — when he criticized the Supreme Court ruling that created a constitutional right for same-sex couples to get married and said at the time that “any future Supreme Court can change it.”
Response— Rep. Val Demings, who is challenging Rubio this fall, blasted him for opposing the bill that passed the House this week with 47 Republican votes, including six GOP members from Florida. “It is embarrassing that Senator Marco Rubio of Florida would call a bipartisan effort to protect the freedom to marry who you love a ‘stupid waste of time.’ I thought marrying the person you love has always been a good thing? Marco Rubio has proven that he has no interest in representing and fighting for all Floridians,” Demings said in a statement.
— GOP freezes up on same-sex marriage, by POLITICO’s Burgess Everett
HEADING THIS WAY— “President Biden to visit Orlando and Tampa on Monday,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Steven Lemongello: “President Biden plans to come to Orlando and Tampa on Monday, the White House said Wednesday. Biden is scheduled to address the annual conference of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, or NOBLE, at the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel in Orlando. He also is set to talk at a Democratic National Committee event in Tampa.”
— “Rick Scott lauds Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan trip,” by Florida Politics’ A.G. Gancarski
DAY 3 — “‘A lot of bodies on the floor.’ Students, teachers describe classroom horror of Stoneman Douglas shooting,” by South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Rafael Olmeda and Natalia Galicza: “On the third day of the penalty trial of confessed Parkland mass shooter Nikolas Cruz, jurors were subjected to a battery of witnesses testifying about the gunshots, the screaming, the tears and injuries. The carnage. ‘I remember seeing a lot of bodies on the floor,’ said student Kyle Laman, injured in the ankle and still struggling to process what he saw. Laman was shot but still managed to run out of a third-floor bathroom to safety as Cruz opened fire from the other end of the hall.”
— “Activist David Hogg removed from House hearing on an assault weapons ban,” by NBC News’ Zoë Richards
BOOK WARS — “Sex-ed textbook rejected by Miami school board after parents invoke ‘Don’t say gay’ bill,” by Miami Herald’s Sommer Brugal: “In a narrowly divided vote, the Miami-Dade School Board Wednesday reversed its decision to adopt a new sex education textbook for the 2022-23 school year — a move that leaves the district with no sexual education curriculum for at least four to eight months. The 5-4 vote followed an emotionally charged public comment period that included various community members being escorted out of the building and a multi-hour board member discussion that strongly paralleled the discussion it previously had in April, when members initially adopted the material in a 5-3 vote.”
Turn the page— “The book, ‘Comprehensive Health Skills,’ which comes with a version for middle school and one for high school classes and offers a research-based health-education with topics such as nutrition, physical activity and sexually transmitted diseases, would have addressed the district’s units of study for Human Reproduction and Disease Education for grades six through 12. But the materials soon came under fire from some parents and community members who argued the lessons were not age appropriate and violated the state’s parental rights law, which Gov. DeSantis signed into law in March and which critics have dubbed the ‘don’t say gay’ bill.”
‘TRYING TO HARM OUR CHILDREN’— “At Moms for Liberty summit in Florida, political strategy comes with a dose of opportunity,” by USA Today Network-Florida’s Kathryn Varn: “Her question captured the undercurrent of frustration and fear that brought 500 mostly mothers here from states as far as Washington and Hawaii to Moms for Liberty’s inaugural summit. Parents who were angry about COVID-19 restrictions in schools or their child’s bad experiences with a teacher heard from speakers again and again that their concerns weren’t just valid but part of a grander scheme. While the priorities of local chapters vary, the overarching themes of the Joyful Warriors Summit told of a cynical conspiracy infiltrating American public schools — with little or no evidence to support their claims.”
‘WE NEED TO TAKE IT SERIOUSLY’— “Florida’s Monkeypox cases soar as criticism mounts over slow response,” by South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Cindy Krischer Goodman: “As outrage rises over the country’s sluggish monkeypox response, Florida exemplifies how the virus is spreading at a worrisome speed. With more than 208 confirmed and probable cases in the state, the Florida Department of Health is only now getting Jynneos monkeypox vaccines out to the communities most affected and education on transmission and treatment is sorely lacking.”
GENTLE GIANTS— “Officials: Starvation threat not over for Florida manatees,” by The Associated Press’ Curt Anderson: “Fewer manatee deaths have been recorded so far this year in Florida compared to the record-setting numbers in 2021, but wildlife officials cautioned Wednesday that chronic starvation remains a dire and ongoing threat to the marine mammals. Between Jan. 1 and July 15, about 631 manatee deaths have been confirmed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. That compares with 864 during the same period last year, when a record number of manatees died mainly from a lack of seagrass food, which was decimated by water pollution.”
‘A NEW MODUS OPERANDI’ — “U.S. fears Venezuela is increasing efforts to lure and entrap Americans as bargaining chips,” by McClatchy D.C.’s Michael Wilner and El Nuevo Herald’s Antonio Maria Delgado: “In early March, after senior U.S. officials made a rare visit to Caracas, the Biden administration announced a breakthrough:. Two Americans detained in Venezuela were free and flying home. Direct talks with the government of Nicolás Maduro seemed to be paying off. But U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials were alarmed when, days later, two more Americans were quietly apprehended by Venezuelan authorities, seemingly replenishing Maduro’s stock of political prisoners. The detentions raised fears within the Biden administration that the Maduro regime “is working more aggressively to increase its leverage of detained Americans,” one senior U.S. official told McClatchy and the Miami Herald.”
— “Fried, legislators propose new ride safety laws for small theme parks after Tyre Sampson death,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Katie Rice
— “Florida’s unclaimed property law challenged,” by CBS Miami
— “Tax squeeze: What inflation and a real estate boom mean for property taxes this year,” by Miami Herald’s Douglas Hanks
— “Reps for 10-year-old perp-walked by Lee sheriff call for DOJ investigation,” by Fort Myers News-Press’ Dan Glaun
— “Why George Soros is the GOP’s villain in the sale of a Spanish-language radio station,” by Miami Herald’s Lesley Cosme Torres
— “Second federal court upholds $30K in fines for Dunedin homeowner’s tall grass,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Milla Surjadi: “Now the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the city did no wrong, finding the fines as not ‘unconstitutionally excessive.’ ‘If a $30,000 fine for not mowing your lawn isn’t excessive, what is?’ [James] Ficken’s attorney, Andrew Ward, wrote in a statement from the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm with a mission of ending abuses of government power.”
BIRTHDAYS: State Sen. Gayle Harrell