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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 11.1.23

Good Wednesday morning.

Late, great and golden

Some of you may have been wondering where the Fall edition of INFLUENCE has been, and to you, I owe an apology.

This edition is overdue — it was slated to come out right after Summer — but as much as I’d love to blame the delay on a busy editorial calendar due to our Governor running for President, this one’s on me.

Many of our readers know, because I’m always inclined to share, that this year has been a rough one. In February, after losing more than 110 pounds over the preceding year, I suffered an injury and was taken, quite literally, out of the game. When you’ve accomplished that level of personal transformation, the process it took to get there becomes addictive. Simply put, without it, I was a bit lost.

It may be a case of TMI but losing my ability to maintain an active schedule of tennis and exercise and remain as physically mobile as I had recently become, well, it drained my creative juices.

But as is the case with everything, the show must go on, and the people highlighted in these pages deserve recognition, even if it’s been delayed.

This year’s Golden Rotunda honorees and others featured in this edition includes some intriguing choices. These individuals aren’t just the familiar faces pounding the halls of the Capitol; they are people who enjoyed a particularly noteworthy Session. They may not have brought home the biggest appropriations or scored the highest profile wins, but their stories fascinated the Fourth Floor and political observers.

And the edition is chock-full of must-read content for those involved or otherwise interested in The Process.

We took time to speak with Dave Aronberg, a South Florida staple whose story includes pre-U.S. Senate Bill Nelson, the botched 2000 Election, and a whole lot of insight.

We also tackle the headache that is Florida’s insurance climate with three questions for David Altmaier.

And for our readers in the political minority, we look at the road out of the wilderness for Democrats in a once-swing state, hoping to shade it back to purple.

So, while I am sorry that my recent gloom has delayed this edition, I’m proud of its contents, the political rock stars featured, and the staff who helped bring it all together.

I also look forward to getting back into my groove in January with the next round of Rising Stars, a much-anticipated look at the upcoming class of political insiders who grease the wheels of progress in the Sunshine State.

We hope you enjoy this issue and find it useful as we plow forward to yet another year, this one complete with a presidential contest that could have sweeping implications for Florida. Until then, enjoy the upcoming holiday season and the needed reprieve it so often brings to those of us operating in this chaotic world.

So, while you raid the leftover Halloween candy, please take a few moments and dive in here.


Don’t worry restaurateurs; Carol Dover isn’t going anywhere.

The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association on Tuesday shut down rumors that its longtime President and CEO was considering retirement.

“As she enters her 29th year as FRLA President and CEO, I’m proud to announce that Carol Dover has committed to further her tenure directing Florida’s premiere hospitality trade association,” said John Horne, FRLA Board Chair and CEO of Oysters Rock Hospitality.

“The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association is on the front lines daily fighting to protect, educate, and promote Florida’s hospitality industry, which demands the right leader running the ship. We look forward to Carol continuing her leadership for many years to come!”

Carol Dover is not quite ready to go gently into that good night.

Dover took the top spot at FRLA in 1995 after spending years building her credentials in The Process — the FSU hospitality alumna was a Deputy Chief of Staff under former Gov. Bob Martinez and at one point led the Hotels and Restaurants Division at DBPR.

Her tenure at FRLA was already successful before the pandemic, but when COVID-19 sideswiped one of the most important cogs in the state economy, she helped the 10,000-member association secure some much-needed wins, including cocktails-to-go.


Some may grouse about where Florida ranks in education or health care, but the Sunshine State does have some No. 1’s to brag about.

One of them is hospice care, and what better time to highlight it than on the first day of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month?

Florida’s hospice care is nationally recognized, owing its success to the innovative “competitive batching” system recently noted by Florida TaxWatch.

In this system, every Florida hospice provider adheres to strict service standards and undergoes regular evaluations. Those who don’t consistently deliver top-tier care risk losing their licenses.

Florida’s hospice care is also regulated by an incredibly competitive Certificate of Need model, which requires providers to meet stringent licensure criteria, ensuring that only those fully committed to delivering exceptional care can operate.

This approach has cultivated a culture of excellence, consistently ranking Florida among the absolute best in the nation with 100% statewide coverage, even in hard-to-reach rural areas.

Other large states simply can’t compete.

California and Texas struggle to provide quality hospice care due to a lack of regulation. Their hospice providers are also largely concentrated in major metros, which has resulted in exorbitant costs, widespread fraud, and inadequate or nonexistent coverage for rural areas.


Suncoast Tiger Bay Club hosts ‘Evening with the Tigers’ — 6; 2023 Florida Chamber Mental Health Innovation Summit — 7; ‘The Marvels′ premieres — 9; Formula 1 will take over the Las Vegas Strip — 15; Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ premieres — 21; 2023 Florida Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 21; ‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ premieres — 21; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 28; Florida TaxWatch’s 2023 Government Productivity Awards Ceremony — 35; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Insurance Summit — 43; Zack Snyder’s ‘Rebel Moon’ premieres — 51; Michael Mann’s ‘Ferrari’ premieres — 54; Matt Dixon’s ‘Swamp Monsters: (Donald) Trump vs. (Ron) DeSantis ― the Greatest Show on Earth (or at Least in Florida)’ released — 69; 2024 Florida Chamber Legislative Fly-In and reception — 69; Florida’s 2024 Regular Session begins — 69; 2024 Primetime Emmy Awards — 75; Florida TaxWatch’s State of the Taxpayer Dinner — 76; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 94; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 97; South Carolina GOP holds first-in-the-South Primary — 115; Michigan Democratic Primary — 117; Trump’s D.C. trial on charges related to trying to reverse his 2020 Election loss — 124; Super Tuesday — 125; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 129; 2024 Oscars — 131; Georgia Democratic Primary — 132; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 136; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 191; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 200; Republican National Convention begins — 254; New ‘Alien’ premieres — 258; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 267; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 268; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 298; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 342; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 354; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 415; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 471; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 550; ‘Moana’ premieres — 606; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 780; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 911; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 934; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,147; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,286; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,242; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,605.


3 expert shoemakers say Ron DeSantis is probably wearing height boosters” via Derek Guy for POLITICO — In the last few weeks, posts mocking DeSantis’ strangely shaped cowboy boots have racked up millions of views on Twitter and TikTok, with online sleuths trying to determine whether he’s wearing height-boosting insoles to pump himself up against a 6’3” primary front-runner with a penchant for nicknames who reportedly considered calling DeSantis “Tiny D.”

(If the 2001 Yale baseball team roster is to be believed, DeSantis stands at 5’11”.)

DeSantis has reason to worry: Over the last century or so, taller candidates have tended to have an advantage in General Elections — with the notable exceptions of former President Barack Obama, who is shorter than Mitt Romney, and President Joe Biden, who is shorter than Trump.

Three top experts in the field say the cowboy boot truthers might be onto something.

Experts weigh in on #BootGate.

“I’ve dealt with these politicians many times,” says Zephan Parker, the bespoke bootmaker behind Houston’s popular Parker Boot Company, which, he says, has made height-increasing cowboy boots for a number of Texan politicians.

“I’ve helped them with their lifts. [DeSantis] is wearing lifts; there’s no doubt.”

For Parker, there are two giveaways. Traditional Western boots are typically built with an elevated heel, ranging from 1 1/2” to 1 7/8“. DeSantis’ boots have a traditional Western silhouette, but, to Parker, the heels appear shorter. When you stick inserts into cowboy boots, the combination of the height-increasing lifts and the heels can “turn them into five-inch stilettos,” Parker says. “That’s too much for the common man.”

The other giveaway, Parker says, is the boots’ tops (what most people would recognize as the shaft). Cowboy boots are made to fit snugly. But such a snug fit leaves little room for a wedge-shaped lift, so people who wear lifts often have to size up in width. This increases all the other measurements in tandem, including the circumference of the tops.


We wrapped Sunburn up early to trick or treat, but here are a few things:

DeSantis camp faces ‘another PR disaster’ with Iowa poll’s release” via Marc Caputo of The Messenger — When Trump’s super PAC began a new $1 million ad campaign attacking DeSantis in Iowa, DeSantis’ campaign was quick to declare it good news. “Team Trump is now being forced to publicly admit that Ron DeSantis is climbing in Iowa,” the campaign said. On Monday, that talking point took a major hit with the release of the widely respected Iowa Poll, which showed DeSantis losing 3 percentage points in two months. That put DeSantis at an anemic 16%, tied with Nikki Haley, who jumped 10 points. Trump, meanwhile, gained a marginal 1 point and has 43% support overall, little threatened by either.

Another day, another disaster from Iowa.

DeSantis says latest Iowa poll gives him a ‘path’ to win” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis is offering a counternarrative to new Iowa polling that shows him mired in a second-place tie with Nikki Haley in the pivotal Iowa caucuses. DeSantis says he is focusing on the positives in the survey data, which showed Haley tied with him at 16%, 27 points behind Trump. “It did say that I have the highest favorability and the highest percentage of Iowans that are considering voting for me, and I clearly have a path to win the caucus. I don’t think anyone else other than me or Trump has that path based on the underlying data,” DeSantis said. The Governor’s read of those data points is accurate. A total of 52% of participants in the poll said DeSantis was their “second choice” or that they were “actively considering” the Governor. DeSantis is also at 69% favorability, the highest of the candidates.

Nikki Haley doubles slumping DeSantis in South Carolina poll” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A new poll from the Palmetto State finds DeSantis in a distant third place in the pivotal early Primary state. A survey shows DeSantis with just 11% support, far behind Trump (53%) and Haley (22%). While the good news is that other candidates are in single digits, this survey is the latest to show that the DeSantis campaign is stumbling in a state framed as pivotal to his Presidential hopes. More than 3 in 5 respondents say they are definite about their choices, meaning that to the best of their knowledge, these voters are locked in on candidates months before Palmetto State Republicans cast ballots.

DeSantis warns against ‘blunder’ into Middle Eastern war” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis continues to express doubts about American military involvement in the Middle East and is calling on Biden to explain why 1,200 troops are in the region and what the strategy for deployment is going forward. “We don’t want to plan a blunder into another Middle Eastern war,” DeSantis said. The Governor, who served in the region as a member of the military, speaks from personal experience. He noted that the global war on terror deployment was “a situation where the mission was murky.” “We didn’t end up achieving a clear-cut victory. It’s a sticky part of the world. So, I think you’ve got to be very, very careful,” DeSantis said, going on to warn against “American troops that people could just take potshots at” being positioned in the region without backup.

DeSantis again likens U.S. troops in Middle East to ‘sitting ducks’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis is questioning Biden’s troop deployments to the Middle East. And while he won’t say whether there should be more troops or a total withdrawal, he says forces that are there are “sitting ducks.” DeSantis said he is concerned about “what Biden’s doing with our troops that are in the Middle East.” “We’ve got troops in Syria and Iraq. It’s not clear what their mission is. They’re there in insufficient numbers to probably make a huge impact, but they’re there in sufficient numbers to be an inviting target. And Iran has lobbed attacks on our troops,” DeSantis said. Describing retaliatory strikes against buildings in Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as “a weak response,” DeSantis said Biden was “inviting more attacks against our troops.”

As scrutiny mounts, DeSantis’ Disney district cancels no-bid 911 contract” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis’ Disney oversight district revealed Tuesday it had canceled a contract with a politically connected telecommunications entrepreneur’s company as scrutiny mounted over its decision not to open the project to competitive bids. Earlier this month, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District authorized a $242,500 no-bid contract with Figgers Communication to help update its 911 network. That company’s founder, Freddie Figgers, briefly served with Disney district administrator Glen Gilzean on the Florida Commission on Ethics. Both were appointed to the ethics board by DeSantis.

Matt Gaetz welcomed by hometown crowd weeks after booting House Speaker from office” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Gaetz spent most of October hearing boos from both sides of the aisle. But the Fort Walton Beach Republican was met with cheers at a campaign rally in Navarre. The fourth-term Congressman welcomed a crowd of about 550 people, who heard from Gaetz and his father, former Florida Senate President and current state Senate candidate Don Gaetz. At the event, Gaetz said the support in Florida’s 1st Congressional District not only keeps his seat safe but inspires him to fight. “In those tough moments in Washington, I could barely keep a food tester employed. I had three die on me last week,” he joked.

Matt Gaetz finds a friendly crowd.

Rick Baker backs Ed Montanari in HD 60 race” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Baker is endorsing St. Pete City Council member Montanari in the House District 60 race. Both Republicans with experience in City government, Baker’s tenure at City Hall predates Montanari’s, but they’re aligned in political circles. Montanari is running for the St. Pete-based House district in hopes of unseating incumbent Democrat Lindsay Cross. Baker noted Montanari’s collegial nature in his endorsement and made reference to his own vision of a “Seamless City,” which is the name of a book Baker authored. “Ed Montanari is the proven leader we need representing us in Tallahassee,” Baker said. “Ed understands that you have to build a consensus to truly have a Seamless City that is affordable and safe for everyone.”

Byron and Erika Donalds back Yvette Benarroch for HD 81 — House candidate Benarroch kicked off her campaign with endorsements from one of the brightest rising stars in GOP politics: U.S. Rep. Donalds. The Southwest Florida congressman who garnered a fair number of House Speaker votes said Benarroch, a Marco Island Republican, is a conservative who is “committed to the right things for this country” and “committed to making sure that the continuation of what has made Florida the best state in the Union continues.” Donalds’ wife, Erika, a well-known school choice advocate, offered her endorsement as well. “I believe in Yvette so much. She gets things done. She’s loyal to our party. But most of all, she values the things that we value,” she said, adding that Benarroch is a “Get It Done Girl.” Benarroch faces Greg Folley in the Republican Primary for HD 81, a markedly GOP district covering part of Collier County.

Florida lawmakers have filed 16 gun-related bills. Most face long odds.” via the News Service of Florida — Amid mass shootings in Maine and Ybor City, Florida Democrats filed bills last week that seek to expand rules regarding the storage of firearms and discharging guns in residential areas. The proposals bring to 16 the number of gun-related measures so far submitted for the 2024 Legislative Session that begins Jan. 9, but it’s unlikely the bills will gain traction. Democrats, outstripped by Republicans in both the House and Senate, have filed all but three of the bills. Two of the measures were filed following a mass shooting on Wednesday in Lewiston, Maine, where 18 people were killed and 13 other people were injured by a National Guard reservist who later took his own life, according to law enforcement officials.

Florida bill proposes court-appointed advocates for neglected dogs, cats” via the News Service of Florida — Abused and neglected pets could get court-appointed representation under a measure filed for the 2024 Legislative Session. The proposal by Fleming Island Republican Sen. Jennifer Bradley, St. Petersburg Democratic Rep. Lindsay Cross, and Seminole Republican Rep. Berny Jacques, would authorize a volunteer attorney, certified emeritus attorney, or certified legal intern to be designated to act as an advocate in criminal cases of neglect or abuse involving a dog or cat. The appointment would be like the court designation of a guardian ad litem involving children in court cases. “These advocates will ensure an informed process and, especially in cases of hoarding, provide helpful resources for the judicial process,” Bradley said in a news release.

He was their chosen interim leader. Then Pembroke Park looked up his past.” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Pembroke Park’s next interim town leader is likely to be let go before he even starts work after drawing some attention over being fired or resigning from past jobs. Darryl LeTroy “Troy” Bell, of Pompano Beach, had been chosen in September to become the Interim Manager for a town that has faced turnover, with numerous staffers resigning in recent years amid political arguments and acrimony. His…

Read Nore:Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 11.1.23