Democrats build up Cuba response — Florida becomes center of Covid-19 surge — DeSantis wins another round vs. CDC — Florida Dems anxious over Miami congressional racesJuly 26, 2021
Hello and welcome to Monday.
Coming soon — Well, it looks like there is an effort to provide some counterprogramming when it comes to Cuba.
Ramped up — As the protests unfolded in Cuba, Republicans assailed the Biden administration for both its tentative initial approach and for the actions announced late last week that included targeted sanctions at individuals in the regime.
Pushing back — But now there are efforts to answer administration critics. Building Back Together — a non-profit focused on advancing parts of the Biden agenda — is spending nearly six figures on digital and radio ads in central and South Florida denouncing the Cuban regime and supporting the Biden administration’s recommended actions. “Building Back Together understands the importance of engaging with the Cuban and broader Hispanic community in Florida, and remains focused on ensuring they know their concerns are being heard and acted upon by President Biden and Vice President Harris,” Building Back Together chief strategy officer Mayra Macías said in a statement shared with Playbook. The ads are in both Spanish and English.
Not alone — This effort is coming at the same time the DNC is moving ahead with its own digital ad campaign designed to reach out to Cuban American voters on Facebook and Instagram stating that “communism is a universally failed system” — while highlighting Biden's support for Cuban protesters. “The DNC is committed to using our resources to speak directly to the Cuban community in South Florida to make sure they know that President Biden and Democrats have their back,” DNC chair Jaime Harrison said over the weekend after announcing the ad campaign.
Ongoing — The decision to spend some time and money should be seen as a signal that Biden's supporters have not completely written off Florida ahead of 2022 and 2024. And this is probably just the opening bell.
— WHERE'S RON? — Nothing official announced for Gov. DeSantis.
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WE’RE NO. 1 — “Florida leads U.S. in Covid-19 cases as hospitalizations surge,” by Wall Street Journal’s Arian Campo-Flores: “Florida is recording more Covid-19 cases than any other U.S. state, as hospitalizations in some areas increase at the fastest rate since the start of the pandemic. The state accounts for one in five new infections in the U.S. and logged 73,181 cases over the past week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Florida had 341 cases per 100,000 people over the past week, second only to Louisiana. The weekly total of new cases reported by Florida jumped more than fourfold between July 1 and July 22, reaching its highest point since mid-January.”
TAKING AIM — “In Broward, Charlie Crist rips Gov. Ron DeSantis over Florida’s Covid-19 spike: ‘We don’t have leadership,’” by Sun Sentinel’s Anthony Man: "Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Crist attacked Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sunday, accusing him of playing Republican presidential politics on the Texas border — while COVID-19 infections rising and people are dying in Florida. During a campaign appearance in Broward County, Crist pointed to the recent increase in COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths. ‘You know what’s happening. We have gone to the top. And it is a dubious distinction,’ he said. ‘And why is that? Because we don’t have leadership.’”
FLIP-FLOP — “Appeals court reverses course, lifts CDC cruise COVID-19 safety rules,” by Miami Herald’s Taylor Dolven: “Three judges on the U.S. Appeals Court for the 11th Circuit on Friday vacated their decision issued last weekend that allowed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to enforce its cruise COVID-19 safety rules in Florida... 'Today, following Florida’s application to the United States Supreme Court, we were excited to see the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reverse its prior order and free the cruise lines from the unlawful CDC mandates,' Taryn Fenske, spokesperson for Gov. Ron DeSantis, said in an email. 'The cruise industry is free to safely set sail again!'”
CDC response — "In a statement Friday night, the Centers for Disease Control said ships operating out of Florida will still be required to report illnesses and deaths to the agency. If ships choose not to follow the COVID-19 regulations, now recommendations, the agency will label them 'gray' on its color-coding system and they will be required to abide by the federal mask mandate for public transportation.”
HMM — “Florida becomes U.S. epicenter of COVID, reports wrong death count," by Palm Beach Post’s Chris Persaud: “California, Texas, New York and Illinois and Pennsylvania together logged 362 more COVID-19 fatalities in the same period, lower than Florida’s 387, the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]’s website said. But Florida’s Friday report states it logged only 78 more deaths this week. Yet the difference between the state report’s total statewide death toll of 38,670 and the 38,388 reported the week prior is 282. Representatives for Florida’s Health Department and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office did not return answers on Friday to emails and calls seeking explanation for the delay in reporting and the discrepancy in new fatalities.”
IN THE DARK — “States scale back virus reporting just as cases surge,” by The Associated Press’ Josh Funk: “In Florida’s last two weekly reports, the number of new cases shot up from 23,000 to 45,000 and then 73,000 on Friday, an average of more than 10,000 day. Hospitals are starting to run out of space in parts of the state. With cases rising, Democrats and other critics have urged state officials and Gov. Ron DeSantis to resume daily outbreak updates. ‘There was absolutely no reason to eliminate the daily updates beyond an effort to pretend like there are no updates,’ said state Rep. Anna Eskamani, a Democrat from the Orlando area.”
‘THIS MESS IS CRAZY’ — “Florida tops the nation in new COVID cases. As they spike in its rural Big Bend, many still fear the vaccine more,” by USA Today’s Nada Hassanein: “The calls haven’t stopped. For the last week, paramedic Melissa Peddie has fielded them back-to-back for cases of COVID-19. Peddie runs the only ambulance in Liberty County, a sprawling, sparsely populated community in Florida’s rural Big Bend, where as of last week just 23.9% of residents were fully vaccinated. The county has seen a dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases during July, mirroring other communities across the nation where many people have not gotten the shot.”
FLORIDA MAN — “The most influential spreader of coronavirus misinformation online,” by The New York Times’ Sheera Frankel: “Dr. [Joseph] Mercola, 67, an osteopathic physician in Cape Coral, Fla., has long been a subject of criticism and government regulatory actions for his promotion of unproven or unapproved treatments. But most recently, he has become the chief spreader of coronavirus misinformation online, according to researchers. An internet-savvy entrepreneur who employs dozens, Dr. Mercola has published over 600 articles on Facebook that cast doubt on Covid-19 vaccines since the pandemic began, reaching a far larger audience than other vaccine skeptics, an analysis by The New York Times found. His claims have been widely echoed on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.”
— “Michael Flynn criticizes DeSantis, Hannity for vaccine push: ‘They know that they have influence,’” by Newsweek’s Andrew Stanton
— “Miami-Dade opens five new COVID vaccine, testing sites as cases continue to surge,” by Miami Herald’s Devoun Cetoute
— “Northeast Florida COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations nearing highs from winter,” by Florida Times-Union’s David Bauerlein and Clayton Freeman
TROUBLE AHEAD, TROUBLE BEHIND — “Florida Democrats anxious over stalled Miami congressional races,” by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon: Two Miami-area congressional races are likely to be some of the nation’s most expensive and competitive midterm contests. But Democrats so far are missing one thing: candidates. Then-Democratic Reps. Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell lost the seats in surprise upsets in 2020. Democrats now see both races as winnable — Hillary Clinton won both districts in 2016 by double digits, and the seats tend to sway between Republican and Democratic control. But some Florida Democrats are blaming the poor recruitment drive on the party, which they say isn’t doing enough to recruit and assist strong candidates — a sign of larger problems in the nation’s biggest swing state.
Rematch? — Shalala told POLITICO she’s considering seeking a rematch with Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar and will likely have a decision firmed up in October. The 80-year-old has a reputation as a prolific fundraiser, and she’s well-known in the district as the former president of the University of Miami. “Plenty of money will be available for these races on the Democratic side, but our big and small donors will not be focused until fall,” she said. “I am not concerned about the chatter.”
MORE DETAILS — “Woman says consultant paid her to put name on PAC promoting Central Florida ‘ghost’ candidate,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Jason Garcia and Annie Martin: “As it turns out, the chairperson of the political committee that paid for those mailers was a then-25-year-old community college student who knew nothing about the advertisements her committee was funding. But she had recently found out she was pregnant and was worried about money — so she agreed to let a Republican political operative put her name on the committee’s paperwork in exchange for $1,500, according to a sworn statement she gave to investigators in December. ‘I don’t recall entirely other than, ‘Would you like to be a chairperson for a committee? There’s no responsibilities involved in it,’ Hailey DeFilippis said, describing the pitch she said the operative, Alex Alvarado, delivered in their initial conversation.”
MEANWHILE — “Ethics panel gets tough on sham no-party candidate in 2020 Miami race,” by Miami Herald’s Ana Ceballos: “A state ethics panel on Friday rejected a $6,500 fine against a sham no-party candidate who ran in a 2020 Miami-Dade legislative race, a rare move that was triggered by calls for stiffer penalties in a case one commissioner called one of the “most egregious” in Florida. The Florida Commission on Ethics also found probable cause that Alexis Pedro Rodriguez filed inaccurate campaign documents with the state and accepted money from former Republican Sen. Frank Artiles with the understanding that he would change his party affiliation from Republican to no party to qualify to run in the Senate District 37 election.”
— “Florida GOP chair Joe Gruters says he’s ‘moving forward’ after ‘false’ harassment claim,” by Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Zac Anderson
— “Orlando attorney and stroke survivor Coleman Watson makes bid for U.S. Senate in Florida,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Steven Lemongello
— “After past ‘mockery,’ Florida GOP to begin new high-stakes redistricting effort," by USA Today Network-Florida’s John Kennedy
SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION — “Gaetz case takes bizarre tabloid turn,” by POLITICO’s Marc Caputo: A sugar daddy website linked to the sex-trafficking investigation of Matt Gaetz publicly weighed in on the scandal, saying the lawmaker has never been registered on the site in search of young women. The unusual move by the web site SeekingArrangement puts some distance between Gaetz and the accusation against him. The site had been caught up in the Gaetz case because it had reportedly been used by the GOP lawmaker and another key player in the case to connect with an underage girl for sex.
How it came to this — SeekingArrangement, which helps “sugar babies” connect online with men, released a statement because of yet another odd twist in the case: The former mistress of golfer Tiger Woods sued the website claiming it wrongfully terminated her contract as the company's spokesperson. The plaintiff, Rachel Uchitel, said she was fired because SeekingArrangement was in damage control due to the investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz, which is unrelated to her lawsuit. Uchitel never met or had any interactions with Gaetz. She also had no connection to Gaetz’ former friend and “wingman,” Joel Greenberg, a former Florida county tax collector who had met a 17-year-old on SeekingArrangement and admitted to prosecutors that he had sex with her in 2017.
PATRONIS TIME — “Overhaul of Florida program to aid brain-damaged kids now in hands of powerful politician,” by Miami Herald’s Carol Marbin Miller and Daniel Chang: “Now that the Florida Legislature and governor have taken action to overhaul a Florida program that serves families with brain-damaged children, its future could pivot on a state Cabinet member following through on his promise to make the program answer to the parents of disabled children.”
— “DeSantis picks Senate President’s daughter for USF trustee,” by News Service of Florida
R.I.P. — “Robert Moses, influential civil rights figure and FIU professor, dead at 86,” by Miami Herald’s Devoun Cetoute and Rob Wile: “Influential civil rights activist Robert 'Bob' Moses passed away Sunday at age 86, leaving behind a legacy of fighting against oppression that dates back to the 1960s. A cause of death was not immediately available. ‘That Bob Moses was soft-spoken never should be mistaken for a hesitant spirit,’ said David Lawrence Jr., a retired Herald publisher and founder of The Children’s Movement of Florida. ‘In my lifetime I have known no greater voice for justice.’”
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED — “Pasco Sheriff’s Office letter targets residents for ‘increased accountability,’” by Tampa Bay Times’ Kathleen McGrory: "It starts like an offer of admission from a prestigious university. ‘We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected…’ it says. But the four-page letter from the Pasco Sheriff’s Office goes on to tell recipients they will be facing enhanced police scrutiny under the agency’s controversial intelligence program. ‘You may wonder why you were enrolled in this program,’ the letter continues. ‘You were selected as a result of an evaluation of your recent criminal behavior using an unbiased, evidence-based risk assessment designed to identify prolific offenders in our community.’”
AFTERMATH — “Condo law, insurance, oversight, engineering. Surfside collapse could change a lot,” by Miami Herald’s Joey Flechas and Douglas Hanks: “Even without a clear picture of why the tower fell, minds from across several disciplines, some overlapping, are expected to fixate on one goal: preventing this from ever happening again. Several layers of government play different roles in overseeing the construction and maintenance of multi-family buildings. The interplay between multiple bureaucracies, and how those governments interact with the owners and management of these buildings, are expected to be examined from city hall to Tallahassee.”
— “USF, big on ambition, hits a bump as its still-new president steps down,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Divya Kumar
BIRTHDAYS: Former Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli ... Former state Rep. Richard Stark … Former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum … (Was Sunday) State Rep. Anika Omphroy ... Shannon Colavecchio, associate managing director with The Moore Agency ... Tony Welch, former spokesman for the Democratic National Committee... Liz Brown of Rep. Kathy Castor’s office … (Was Saturday) Rep. Charlie Crist ... Steve Birtman
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