Thursday, March 23

What’s at stake on Florida’s primary day- POLITICO

Hello and welcome to Tuesday.

Morning Glory It’s primary day in Florida. More than 2.16 million people have already voted early or voted by mail in the days ahead of today’s election. Polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Don’t Look Back In Anger — Four years ago — with fiercely competitive primaries for governor going on for both parties — more than 3.57 million Floridians voted, about 27.5 percent of the electorate at the time. The initial indications are that the turnout will not meet that mark this year.

Supersonic — Florida’s political axis has tilted considerably since then in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ascendancy of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who narrowly won the 2018 election over Andrew Gillum.

Be Here Now Democrats — whose animus toward DeSantis appears to surpass their reaction to former Gov. Rick Scott — will decide whether Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried or Rep. Charlie Crist is the best candidate to wage the uphill battle against DeSantis come November. DeSantis has already given a peek of the fight he’s prepared to bring to Democrats and in the last week his campaign began pumping up its television ads. Look for the campaign to go into overdrive as soon as today.

The Masterplan Fried billed her campaign as “Something New” and in the closing weeks zeroed in on Crist’s Republican past and his convoluted takes on abortion over the course of his lengthy political career. Crist, who had been known as a “happy warrior,” countered with the launch of his own broadsides that attacked Fried for donating and supporting Republicans in the past.

Some Might Say If Crist wins it will show that Democratic voters were reassured that he — despite losing the 2014 race against Scott — is their “best shot” and that his pitch for “decency” and “doing what’s right” was the winning message for Democrats eager to end a lengthy losing streak. If Fried wins it will show that Democrats were motivated by the repeal of Roe v. Wade and Fried’s passionate energetic response to take the fight to Republicans.

Roll With It The governor’s race has commanded a lot of attention but it’s not the only big question that will be answered today. DeSantis’ decision to muscle the Florida Legislature into adopting a new congressional map that heavily favors Republicans means that multiple primary winners will likely be headed to Washington, D.C. And the governor himself waded into nonpartisan local school board races where he threw his support to 30 candidates that will be on the ballot today. And away we go.

— WHERE’S RON? — Gov. DeSantis is scheduled to be in Tallahassee for a meeting with the Florida Cabinet.

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‘ONE QUESTION’ FOR FLORIDA DEMS — She was Florida Dems ‘new hope.’ Then a veteran pol stepped between her and DeSantis, by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon and Gary Fineout: Displayed at Florida Democrat’s 2019 annual convention in Orlando, the poster depicted Fried as Princess Leia from the “Star Wars” franchise. The message was clear: Fried, who narrowly won a statewide race for agriculture commissioner the previous November, was prepared to lead the Democratic rebellion against Republicans. Fast forward three years and Fried is heading into Tuesday’s Democratic primary for governor fighting for her political life against Rep. Charlie Crist, the former Republican Florida governor turned independent turned Democrat, who has decades of electoral experience.

— “Florida Democrats to decide Tuesday who would best to take abortion fight to DeSantis,” by CNN’s Steve Contorno

The biggest special election since Dobbs: What to watch on Tuesday’s primary day, by POLITICO’s Zach Montellaro, Gary Fineout and Bill Mahoney

‘IT’S SOMETHING REPUBLICANS HAVE WANTED’ — “Florida’s primary election a referendum on DeSantis after governor gets heavily involved,” by Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Zac Anderson: “Gov. Ron DeSantis isn’t on the Aug. 23 primary ballot, but many of his endorsed candidates are, and he’s taking significant steps to help them, making the election partly a referendum on Florida’s chief executive. Former President Donald Trump has worked to transform the political landscape and build a loyal bench of supporters by endorsing in a wide range of races and traveling the country to boost those candidates. DeSantis is emulating that strategy in Florida.”

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— “Tuesday’s primary in New York and Florida will test political landscapes scrambled by redistricting,” by NBC News’ Sahil Kapur

— “It’s decision time for Florida voters in Tuesday’s primary,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Steven Lemongello and Skyler Swisher

— “Florida voters head to primary polls as Democrats look to break losing streak,” by The Guardian’s Joan E Greve

— “Florida attorney general candidates: Who they are, what they stand for,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Kirby Wilson

— “Matt Gaetz and Mark Lombardo make closing arguments to voters,” by Pensacola News Journal’s Jim Little

— “On eve of Democratic primary, Charlie Crist eyes contest with Ron DeSantis,” by Florida Politics’ A.G. Gancarski

— “Lack of competitive seats makes Florida primaries more important,” by Roll Call’s Stephanie Akin

THE FROST FACTORActivism, an In-Your-Face Attitude and Uber Driving: The Making of a Gen Z Politician in Florida, by POLITICO’s Sabrina Rodriguez: It’s obvious he doesn’t fit the typical mold for a candidate for Congress — and he’s owning it. For starters, there’s his age, 25, the minimum to serve in the House. He’s Afro-Cuban in a state — and country — where a politician who is both Black and Latino is exceedingly rare. He hasn’t finished college, instead prioritizing his work in community organizing (abortion rights; gun control). He’s never held office. And he doesn’t come from wealth: When he’s not campaigning, he’s behind the wheel of his Kia Soul, clocking in hours for Uber to make ends meet. (His car is currently in the shop, which means he’s got even more time to devote to campaigning for Tuesday’s primary.)

‘TOP GOV’On the eve of the primary, DeSantis’ reelection campaign rolled out a new one-minute video that is both a shoutout to “Top Gun” and a tally of DeSantis’ dustups with the media. In the video, DeSantis, decked in pilot gear, goes over “dogfighting — taking on the corporate media.” DeSantis goes over his rules of engagement and the video includes clips of him snapping at the media. The end of the video includes a cameo from DeSantis’ son, Mason, who says “let’s turn and burn.”

REINSTATEDFlorida appeals court puts Rebekah Jones back on ballot, by POLITICO’s Gary Fineout: A Florida appeals court on Monday ruled that Rebekah Jones, the fired health department worker who earned national media attention over unsubstantiated allegations that Florida was manipulating Covid-19 death data, can remain on the ballot. The decision comes one day before Democratic voters in the sprawling Panhandle district now held by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) will choose their nominee. Jones is running in the Democratic primary and Gaetz is also being challenged in the Republican primary.

RationaleBut in its Monday ruling, a three-judge panel with the 1st District Court of Appeal contended that the candidate oath signed by Jones could not be enforced because the underlying law “provides no express authority to disqualify a party candidate if she was not in fact a registered party member during the 365-day window.” The ruling, authored by Judge Rachel Nordby, who was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, stated “we are mindful that our ruling today could invite bad actors to qualify for the ballot using false party affiliation statements to inject chaos into a party’s primary.”

WEIGHING IN— “Feds back Florida elections law ruling that found bias against Black voters,” by News Service of Florida’s Jim Saunders: The Biden administration has urged a federal appeals court to uphold a ruling that said parts of a 2021 Florida elections law discriminate against Black voters. U.S. Department of Justice attorneys last week filed brief backing challenges by voting-rights groups to the law, which included placing additional restrictions on ballot drop boxes and other changes.

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— “These Republican candidates in Palm Beach County laud roles, attendance in Jan. 6 events,” by Palm Beach Post’s Stephany Matat

— “Desperate Alex Jones pleads for forgiveness from Trump after backing DeSantis,” by The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona

‘THE IMPLICATIONS GO FAR’ — “Files copied from voting systems were shared with Trump supporters, election deniers,” by Washington Post’s Jon Swaine, Aaron C. Davis, Amy Gardner and Emma Brown: “Sensitive election system files obtained by attorneys working to overturn President Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat were shared with election deniers, conspiracy theorists and right-wing commentators, according to records reviewed by The Washington Post. A Georgia computer forensics firm, hired by the attorneys, placed the files on a server, where company records show they were downloaded dozens of times.”

TO COURTTrump files suit demanding special master in Mar-a-Lago search case, by POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney: Former President Donald Trump made his first foray into the legal fight over the FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago estate, seeking the appointment of a “special master” to screen seized materials for potential privileged information. In a legal filing Monday afternoon in federal court in Florida, attorneys for Trump asked the court to appoint a third party to sift through the records FBI seized two weeks ago as part of an investigation into unlawful retention of classified information, misappropriation of presidential and federal records and potential obstruction of justice.

THE JUDGE SPEAKS — Judge says FBI’s evidence for searching Mar-a-Lago is ‘reliable,’ by POLITICO’s Kyle Cheney: The federal magistrate judge who authorized the warrant to search Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate emphasized Monday that he “carefully reviewed” the FBI’s sworn evidence before signing off and considers the facts contained in an accompanying affidavit to be “reliable.” Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart offered his assessment in a 13-page order memorializing his decision to consider whether to unseal portions of the affidavit, which describe the evidence the bureau relied on to justify the search of the former president’s home.

MEANWHILEGang of 8 wants to see Trump Mar-a-Lago search docs, by POLITICO’s Andrew Desiderio: The federal magistrate judge who authorized the warrant to search Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate emphasized Monday that he “carefully reviewed” the FBI’s sworn evidence before signing off and considers the facts contained in an accompanying affidavit to be “reliable.” Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart offered his assessment in a 13-page order memorializing his decision to consider whether to unseal portions of the affidavit, which describe the evidence the bureau relied on to justify the search of the former president’s home.

Archives warned of national security damage from Trump’s classified Mar-a-Lago docs, letter shows, by POLITICO’s Kyle Cheney

— “Trump had more than 300 classified documents at Mar-a-Lago,” by The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, Jodi Kantor, Adam Goldman and Ben Protess

‘DECADES OF FAILED POLICY’Scott proposal would put colleges on the hook for student debt, by POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury: Florida GOP Sen. Rick Scott introduced a higher education package Monday aiming to ramp up accountability among colleges by making schools responsible for paying back some of their students’ loans if they default. Dubbed the “COLLEGE” Act — Changing Our Learning, Loans, Endowments, and Graduation Expectations — Scott’s legislation includes several other proposals such as requiring the Education Department to post “common sense” data for public colleges and universities such 6-year graduation rates, cost to graduate, and job or advanced degree placement.

REMEMBER THIS?What Florida’s ‘intellectual freedom’ surveys show, by POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury: A massive scale free speech survey launched by Florida’s university system scored an abysmal response rate from students yet painted campuses with a clear favoritism toward liberals, according to draft results released Monday. The data is likely to be used by Florida Republican leaders to reinforce concerns that schools are biased against conservatives despite measuring the perspective of roughly 2 percent of Florida’s university students.

By the numbersAnd yet despite surveying some 368,000 students, only 8,835 responded across 12 state universities, marking a response rate of 2 percent, the data shows. Most of the respondents — 5,192 — were Caucasian or white compared with 1,631 students of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin, 534 students identifying as Asian and 531 as Black. More females responded to the survey than males — 3,798 compared with 3,298 — while 1,739 respondents preferred not to indicate a gender. The data in many cases shows that students see their campuses as liberal-leaning institutions.

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UP TODAY — “Critics say DeSantis plan weaponizes state workers’ pension fund in an anti-woke crusade,” by Tallahassee Democrat’s James Call: “Gov. Ron DeSantis plans to deploy the $199-billion Florida Retirement System Tuesday to the front lines of a 2022 culture war, mid-term election. DeSantis, who has emerged as a leading warrior against what he and his supporters call a woke agenda and “ideological corporate power,” wants to prohibit the state from considering what are known as environmental, social governance (ESG) standards when investing state money in companies.”

— “He quit under fire from board to aids kids with brain injuries. Now he’s Florida insurance board,” by Miami Herald’s Carol Marbin Miller

— “Enrollment in Medicaid continues to grow, but economists predict $1.25B surplus,” by Florida Politics’ Christine Jordan Sexton

‘YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER’ — “Nuñez faces backlash for comments about Cuban migrants,” by Miami Herald’s Bianca Padró Ocasio, Syra Ortiz-Blanes and Ana Ceballos: “South Florida Democrats on Monday went after Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, who over the weekend faced backlash for appearing to suggest on a radio show that Cubans who were in Florida ‘illegally’ should be bused out of the state. During a press conference, Miami Latino Democrats slammed Nuñez and the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis for advancing immigration policies that they said affect Cubans who are fleeing a communist regime. The criticism of Nuñez, a Miami-raised Cuban American, was personal: Former Miami mayor Manny Diaz, who is also Cuban American and chairs the Florida Democratic Party, called on Nuñez to distance herself from DeSantis’ rhetoric about immigrants.”

EXPLAINER — “Are Cuban migrants in the U.S. ‘illegals’? That might be the wrong question,” by El Nuevo Herald’s Nora Gámez Torres: “Cuba’s coastal cities of Matanzas and Cienfuegos each have around 177,000 residents. That is also the astonishing number of Cubans that U.S. immigration authorities have stopped at the country’s borders from October last year to June, an exodus already the size of a major Cuban city that is not showing signs of abating.”

‘FRADULENT SCHEME’ — “Stephen Alford sentenced to five years in prison for scheme to extort $25M from Gaetz family,” by Northwest Florida Daily News’ Tom McLaughlin: “Niceville resident Stephen Alford will serve 63 months, or just over five years, in federal prison for attempting to extort $25 million from Don Gaetz, a former state Senate president and father of Florida’s First District Congressman Matt Gaetz. The sentencing followed an afternoon hearing and came after District Court Judge Casey Rodgers ruled lat week that the government had incorrectly attempted to set guidelines for sentencing for stealing $25 million, rather than attempting to steal $25 million.”

— “Citizens Property Insurance hits 1 million policies as rates set to increase starting in fall,” by Palm Beach Post’s Hannah Morse

— “Florida school shooter’s birth mom abused cocaine, alcohol,” by The Associated Press’ Terry Spencer

— “NASA ‘go for launch’ for planned Artemis I moon mission,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Richard Tribou

— “Man charged in Bulger slaying to stay locked up until trial,” by The Associated Press: “A man charged in the prison killing of notorious Boston gangster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger will remain behind bars while he awaits trial, a federal judge ruled Monday. Sean McKinnon, 36, was on federal supervised release when he was arrested Thursday in Florida on charges including conspiracy to commit first degree murder. Two other men charged in Bulger’s killing — Fotios ‘Freddy’ Geas, 55, and Paul J. DeCologero, 48 — were already locked up. The men are accused of conspiring to kill Bulger hours after he was transferred to USP Hazelton in West Virginia from a prison in Florida in 2018.”

BIRTHDAYS: Rep. Scott Franklin … former state Rep. Margaret Good … former Rep. Andy Ireland Peret Pass with Pass Consulting Group

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